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On Travel: Exploring The Marvels of Churchill

Are you ever in for REAL treat! There are so many adventures to be had in this little town of less than 1,000 …. take in as many as you POSSIBLY CAN … you don’t wanna miss a thing.  I stayed for 5 nights and I still had things I wasn’t able to do that I wanted to … I guess that means I’ll just have to go back 😉

This is a list of the things I did while in Churchill – in no particular order. This is my list of suggestions of places to visit, and it’s definitely not inclusive. As I said, there were many more things I wanted to do. It’s amazing how much there is to do in this culture rich town.

Northern Lights

Welcome to earth’s most spectacular light show. Churchill is one of the most popular Northern Lights destinations in Canada. Along with Whitehorse, Yukon and Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Churchill’s northern lights expeditions have become incredibly popular with tourists from around the world. And while the rocky coast of Churchill means that there are plenty of amazing foregrounds for the auroras, one of the best places to catch the view is by the Inukshuk on the beach in Churchill or on the Beluga.  I prefer aboard the Beluga for its height and for its safety – lest there be any wandering bears. The Inukshuk provides a great spot to take some of the best aurora photos or time lapses.  

The auroras can be seen in Churchill up to 300 nights a year. They were really strong 3/5 nights I was there and was in awe each time. I was in constant wonder of what I was seeing and how beautiful they were. Every night put on a different show. I have about 100 photos taken over 3 nights of watching the lights dance in the sky. For now I’ll post a few.

Photo Hunt for Polar Bears

If you’re going to Churchill with the specific intent of seeing the bears, you’re best to go during polar bear season which runs from October through mid November (total of about 6 weeks). Polar bears come onto land every July when the Hudson Bay ice breaks up. In autumn, scores of these great white bears gather along the shores of the bay, waiting for the ice to form so they can venture back out to hunt their favourite food – ring seal. Pregnant females go inland into dens to have cubs in late November and re-emerge in mid-February, when they return to the sea ice.

That’s not to say that you will not see bears if you’re visiting during the Summer months. Tundra buggy tours still operate and some of the people I met said they saw 2-3 bears as well as other wildlife on their excursions.

I was quite fortunate. My main goal was not for the bears, but rather the belugas. If I saw a bear that was a “bonus” and boy did I get lucky. On my tour days with my B&B host, Angela Mak, we saw a 3 separate bears. I saw a momma and her cub on 2 separate days and a single bear walking solo (at different locations).

The SS Ithaca

Off the coast of Churchill, you will find the remains of the SS Ithaca cargo ship, a small freighter, originally built as the Frank A. Augsbury for the Canadian George Hall Coal & Shipping Corporation in 1922. 

She was chartered by the Clarke Steamship Company to deliver nickel concentrate from the works at Rankin Inlet. She sailed from Churchill on 10 September 1960 to collect her cargo and carried supplies to the settlement. She had delivered her first shipment of 2,700 tons of ore to Churchill and had loaded a small amount of mining equipment and building supplies for the return trip, when she encountered a storm with 130 kmh gale forced winds.

The Captain turned back toward the safety of the port, however, the weather was so bad he decided to drop anchor. The anchor chain broke, and her rudder was beaten off. Completely out of control, on 14 September, 1960, the vessel was driven into Bird Cove, a shallow gravel-bank 750 meters offshore.

The Ithaca was driven into Bird Cove, a shallow gravel bank about 750 meters offshore

Her bottom was completely ripped out when the storm pounded her on the gravel bank. The insurer, Lloyd’s of London, wrote the vessel off as a complete loss, and viewed the grounding as suspicious, therefore refusing to pay the insurance claim. All 37 crew members were rescued by the Canadian Coast Guard‘s CCGS Sir William Alexander and were taken to Winnipeg on 18 September 1960. The shallow water she grounded on meant that walking to the wreck at low tide was possible allowing for much of her navigational instruments, and cargo, consisting of two generators and some plywood panels, as well as mission supplies, were able to be salvaged. 

Today, the rusted wreck attracts curious travellers and photographers.  The ship is too dangerous to enter. Because of its position in the shallows of the Hudson, a low-tide hike to the Ithaca is possible. However, beware, polar bears are known to hang out in the wreck. If you want to attempt this hike, it’s best to hire a local guide who is experienced with both the bears and is familiar with the area.

Itsanitaq Museum 

The Itsanitaq Museum, formerly known as the Churchill Eskimo Museum is a must-visit for those who travel to town.  The museum has a collection of over 1,100 Inuit carvings and artifacts which are amongst the finest and oldest in the world dating from Pre-Dorset (1700 B.C.) through Dorset, Thule, and modern Inuit times.

The Itsanitaq Museum also houses arctic wildlife including muskox, polar bear, and walrus as well and relics of some northern explorations. 

There is no fee to visit the museum, donations are appreciated.  

The gift shop specializes in northern books, Canadian Inuit art, unique postcards, art cards, stationery, and local wild berry preserves.

Churchill Rocket Research Range

The Churchill Rocket Research Range is a former rocket launch site located about 23 km outside of town. The facility was used by both Canada and the United States for sub-orbital launches of sounding rockets to study the upper atmosphere. The site was scientifically beneficial due to it laying in the centre of a zone containing high aurora activity. Over 3,500 sub-orbital flights were launched from the site.

The complex was first built in 1954 by the Canadian Army’s Defence Research Board to study the effects of auroras on long distance communications. The program ceased operation in 1955, and the site was re-opened and greatly expanded in 1956 as part of Canada’s participation in the International Geophysical Year. Launches for the experiments started in 1957 but ceased in December 1958.

The site was one again re-opened in August 1959 by the US Army, in collaboration with the Canadian government, as part of its network of sounding rocket stations. In September 1959 it was used to test new solid fuel propellant systems with PVT-1, the vehicle that would evolve into the Black Brant. In late 1960 a fire destroyed many of the facilities. It was announced that the Black Brant test series would be continued with an additional twelve launches at NASA‘s Wallops Flight Facility during 1961-62, while the facilities at Churchill were rebuilt.

The US Army ended its involvement at Churchill in June 1970, and the site was taken over by the Canadian National Research Council to support the Canadian Upper Atmosphere Research Program. The site was used sporadically during the 1970s and 1980s and was largely deserted by 1985.

In 1994 Akjuit Aerospace, a Canadian company, signed a 30-year lease with the Canadian government for the Churchill Rocket Research Range with the goal of developing the world’s first commercial spaceport. Akjuit assembled a technical team of 21 firms led by the American aerospace contractor Raytheon to plan the development of the site into SpacePort Canada, including polar orbital launch capability. Akjuit planned to launch commercial polar-orbiting payloads using Russian rockets. Churchill’s location in the western hemisphere combined with its range-safety for firing northwards made it an ideal location, with the exception of the extremely cold weather which would limit launch seasons. 

Akjuit’s first and only rocket launch took place at 7:10 a.m. Central Time on 28 April 1998: a suborbital Black Brant IXB research rocket containing a physics payload for the Canadian Space Agency. Akjuit Aerospace ceased operations in May 1998.

Kayak With Beluga Whales

Besides polar bears, the beluga whales are one of the town’s biggest draws. And unlike the bears, you can easily get right up close to the white whales of the north. From June to end of August these social, white whales make their way into Hudson Bay and the Churchill River to feed and give birth. Visitors can observe these “canaries of the sea” (known for their whistles and chirps) by kayak, standup paddle board or on a Zodiac boat tour.  

I joined Sea North Tours for a Beluga kayak experience on the mouth of the Churchill River where it empties into Hudson Bay. Kayaking with these magnificent creatures at sunset was all but the best thing I’ve done in my life.  I loved every moment of the 2 hours I was on the water.  They came right up to my kayak and nudged it multiple times, at one time there were 3! I felt kind of like their rubber ducky in their river during playtime. At first I was scared I would tip, but once I got a better feel for my kayak, I was no longer scared, I wanted them to come right up, stick their heads out and say “hi”. They followed and swam beside it as I paddled, I got some decent footage with my iPhone, while still trying to be present and take it all in.

Miss Piggy Plane Wreck 

The cargo plane rests on a cliff edge north of the airport She was nicknamed Miss Piggy because of the size of the loads she carried from site to site in the North.

On November 13, 1979, Miss Piggy, a Curtiss C-46 freight plane, left Churchill airport when shortly into the flight her no.1 engine oil temperature rose, a drop in oil pressure forced the crew to descend and return to Churchill.  The aircraft wasn’t able to maintain altitude and force landed in rough terrain about a 1/4 mile short of the runway. Reportedly, the aircraft was overloaded.  There were 3 crewmen injured in the crash, all survived. 

Churchill Golf Balls

This obsolete building overlooking Hudson Bay was a radar station in the 1960s during the cold ware era. It was used to track launches from the nearby rocket range. Its exterior was painted in 2017 as part of the Seawall public art program. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to go in and explore since I love urbexing. I definitely could have spent more time here …. the views from the top are amazing.

Cape Merry Battery -(Prince of Wales National Historic Site)

Cape Merry is a Parks Canada National Historic Site and is unsupervised. The site includes a cannon battery and some remnants of the old stone walls (partially refurbished). The site can be easily accessed from town. It was built to protect the fort across the river.

A plaque commemorates Jens Munk, the Danish explorer who first landed there in 1619. He was commission by Denmark’s King to seek a new Northwest Passage to the Orient.  In May 1619, his expedition of about 60 men sailed from Copenhagen.  They entered Hudson Bay in late August. Munk and his crew went ashore in 7 November 1619 and spent a terrible winter battling the cold and scurvy – only Munk and 2 of his men survived. They returned to Norway in July 1620.  His ill-fated wintering in Churchill is a great story for those who would underestimate the challenges of life in Canada’s north.

From the fort you can see the Prince of Wales Fort across the Churchill River as well as magnificent views of where fresh water of the river meets salt water of the arctic ocean.  Look out at the vast water views to see the belugas swimming.  

Cape Merry Cannon Battery

Inukshuks

The Inuit meaning of Inukshuk is “in the likeness of a human” … Churchill has some impressive Inukshuks.  Travellers often gravitate to and photograph them in the daytime or with dynamic northern lights over the Hudson Bay (the large one on the beach is best for that).  I counted at least 4 in my time there.  

In front of the Inukshuk at the end of Kelsey Rd.

Polar Bear Jail

As you can imagine, living in a migration path and in a place where the polar bear outnumber the human population, life can be a wee but dangerous. A stroll through town and you will uncover countless signs pointing to where you shouldn’t go lest you risk being made a snack. On occasion, a polar bear gets a little too curious close to town. Dangerous bears are tranquilized when captured and are marked with a bright paint on the neck. Closer to winter, when the ice in the Hudson Bay has set, the bears are relocated by helicopter far from the town.  Prior to establishing the facility, polar bears which were considered dangerous used to be shot. The locals are very much aware that they are in the bears territory and they respect them. Visitors aren’t allowed inside the jail.  However you can check out information signage and bear traps outside the facility.  While I was there, I learned that two bears were trapped and taken to “jail”.  

The building is officially named “House D-20”, and was a former military morgue.

The holding facility was first established in 1982. 

The front exterior was painted as part of the Seawall Project.  

Beluga Tugboat / Beach

If you visit the Churchill beach, immediately behind the Town Complex you’ll find the remains of the Beluga, a former fishing boat which has been converted to a picnic structure.  It’s understood that the Beluga was stationed there to act as a safety spot in the event of a bear encounter – you can climb up the Beluga where the bears cannot reach you.  

The Beluga is also one of the best places in town to watch the moon rise over the bay and to catch the dancing light of the auroras.  The beach is also home to the largest Inukshuk in town and seems to be placed just right for photography lovers and enthusiasts alike. Swimming is not recommended (there are posted signed to not go onto the beach area), but it’s the only place where you’re going to get close to salt water without going to British Columbia or Nova Scotia, PEI or Newfoundland.  If you choose to ignore the posted Polar Bear Alert Program signage, be safe, have someone stand watch for you and plan an escape route.  There are also a series of BBQs and fire pits on the beach to enjoy a fire with friends or family.  

On the beach, you will also find a plaque mounted stone memorial to 3 youngsters who lost their lives – let this be a reminder as tourists … “Had they known.  Lest we forget.  The tides are strong and the rocks slippery when wet”.  

Wander the Ruins of Ladoon’s Castle

The story of Brian Ladoon is a bit of Churchill legend. Brian is either loved, hated, or a little bit of both by residents of the town. You can read more about him here. 

Brian dedicated his life to the preservation of the Canadian Eskimo Dog, he owned 5 Dog Sanctuary, which often attracted polar bears to his property. He saved the dog from extinction. The Canadian Eskimo Dog (Quimmiq) is the oldest indigenous domestic dog species still existing in North America. This rare species is an important icon in the Inuit (formerly Eskimo) history.In the 1970s, the Quimmiq was close to extinction, and Ladoon dedicated his life to keep them alive, helping to breed the dogs and see that they were cared for properly. He is either loved, hated, or a little bit of both by residents of the town. It was revealed that he had (as many suspected) been feeding local polar bears to keep them from harming his dogs (caught only when a bear killed one of his dogs after a night he had not fed the bears). People also strongly felt that he should not keep his dogs tied/chained up up in the middle of a polar bear migration path — they’d have no chance if they encountered a bear.

One of his many projects was his development of a castle-style hotel in Churchill on the Hudson Bay coast. The project was never completed, and the remains of it are often on the minds of many of those who travel to Churchill. You can find Ladoon’s Castle on La Vérendrye Ave as you leave Churchill, just before the cemetery. Brian died in 2019.

The Churchill Seawalls

Spend some time in Churchill, and you’ll likely notice a series of murals spanning the shores of the Hudson Bay. The SeaWalls CHURCHILL mural project was started as a way to educate and inspire the community and travellers to protect the oceans. Each piece takes inspiration from the natural history, community, resiliency, and heritage of Churchill.

Li-Hill, painted “THE BEAR” in less than 6 hours, IN THE RAIN, exposed to both the Hudson Bay and the Churchill River winds, using mostly aerosol BBQ paint from the Home Hardware store.

Sayisi Dene Village

The few remnants of this village is about two miles southeast of Churchill. It was established by the Department of Indian Affairs for the Fort Churchill Indian Band, known today as the Sayisi Dene First Nation. Forced to relocate to Churchill in 1956, they lived in squalor at a site near the present-day cemetery.

In 1966, they were moved to this site into bungalows built by the federal government. The transition from nomadic, caribou-hunting culture to non-migratory urban life was unsuccessful and numerous people died

Many of the houses were destroyed by fire and most of the people relocated to Tadoule Lake by 1973. Within a few years, the village was completely abandoned. The concrete foundations for numerous buildings remain at a site. The commemorative monument was erected in October 1999.

The federal government formally acknowledged its role in relocating the First Nation 60 years ago and offer $33 million in compensation. The message is too late for many of the community members who were taken from their happy homes and placed into a situation of agony, poverty and hopelessness. By 1973, 117 of the more than 250 members who were originally moved had already died.

Parks CanadaVisitors Centre at the Churchill Train Station

Parks Canada attraction is in Churchill’s historic train station. It offers a variety of exhibits which highlight Wapusk National Park, Prince of Wales Fort and York Factory National Historic sites. Experience the ecology and human history of Wapusk through the “Our Land, Our Stories” exhibits. Look into a life-sized polar bear maternity den. Explore the connection between Indigenous people and the caribou.

Jockville Heritage Site

I wasn’t able to find any information online about this site, just that it’s a locality in Manitoba. What I what told is that that the province of Manitoba moved the residents from this community into town, into Manitoba Housing, apparently for safety reasons. I’m not sure if this is accurate.

From my exploration, it appears as of this settlement was established in/about 1929.  One of the buildings on site has a handmade sign on the house which states that it was called 7th Ave Jockville and was previously surveyed by the Railways and Canals.

If anyone knows something more specific on this settlement, I’d love to hear about it. Please email me via the contact link or comment below.

FLORA AND FAUNA

Flora

There are diverse landscapes surrounding Churchill, from the boreal forest at its northern edge to the expansive sub-arctic tundra. More than 400 native plant species can be found here. I was here at the end of Summer, but there were remnants of colourful, the ground cover was filled with wild berries and downy white tufts of Arctic avens. 

Most of the landscape is glacier-sculpted boulders – where the sea gives way to rolling tundra.

Fauna

The Hudson Bay lowlands are part of a rich ecosystem teeming with wildlife … polar bears, beluga whales, splethora of migratory and shorebirds, I saw only 1 seal …

Things that I wasn’t able to fit in during my 5 days in Churchill

  • Prince of Wales Fort
  • York Factory National National Historic Site
  • Sloop Cove National Historic Site
  • Hike to the Ithaca
  • Find a local to take me by boat to Nunavut

All in all no matter what it is you do in Churchill you will enjoy every moment of it. There are so many things to do. On days when I felt like taking it easy a bit more, I would take my book to the parquet on Kelsey Rd, across from my B&B, read my book and soak in the sun, after all, it is still a vacation 😉

Related Blogs to Help You Plan Your Trip to Churchill

How to Get to Churchill

Where I Stayed, Is a Must Stay

Where to Eat In Churchill

On Travel: Where I Stayed in Churchill is a Must Stay!

I can’t speak directly to other hotels, inns or B&Bs. However, I can say with absolute certainty that my experience in Churchill was greatly enhanced because of my B&B hosts. I couldn’t imagine my trip without them being part of it. I want to share as much as I can about where I stayed because I want you to experience the best of Churchill, the way I did.

I started off looking on Booking.com, I usually use this site to book because of my Genius Level 2 discount. I researched all the ones that came up and to be honest it was the Iceberg Inns that had me.

  1. Every single review I read on Booking.com (9.5/10 rating) or Trip Advisor (9.7 rating) were all about how amazing the hosts were, how friendly they were and that they loved their experience at the inn. Traveling solo, it was important to me to stay somewhere that had excellent reviews and that the hosts felt like family.
  2. I was also really wanting to take advantage of the Angela Mak tours and professional photography.
  3. The next thing was that the prices were very reasonable.

And with all that, I booked the Iceberg Inn.

About the Iceberg Inn

The building itself dates from about 1980, it used to be the old Sears Canada building back in the day.

Iceberg Inn (front)

Angela and Bill are the current owners since just before the pandemic … and are amazing!  I’d stay here again just for them.  They are soooo friendly and really just want their guests to have the best time while in town.  And, as I mentioned, it is one of the most highly ranked B&Bs in Churchill, and I understand why.  My whole Churchill experience was as phenomenal as it was, thanks to Bill and Angela!

The inn is located a conveniently short 100 metre walk from the Churchill Train Station and the Parks Canada Visitor Centre. 

All rooms are non-smoking. 

The inn offers common sitting and dining areas as well as use of the kitchen.

It also offers a communal microwave as well as dishes and utensils for guest use. 

Each room has it’s own private washroom, mini fridge and table. 

The rooms are identified by local animals, I stayed in Wolf.

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There is no eat-in dining service, however it is conveniently located within walking distance of all the restaurants and is situated directly across the street from The Northern Store which has groceries, clothes, alcohol etc. You can buy food and bring it back to the B&B, which I did on a few different occasions.

Guests have access to an on site washer and dryer at no extra cost.

All rooms include Wi-Fi.

I was greeted every morning coming out of my room with “Good morning Tina, how did you sleep?”. Bill already had my plate, coffee cup and utensils out on the table, My coffee was being poured just as a sat down. Ever the gracious host, he was there repeatedly to see if I or there other guests needed refills. Breakfast is available at $5.00/day which includes unlimited coffee and toast (rye bread or Angela’s homemade bread, if you’re lucky). The toast is served with butter, peanut butter and jam.  Angela has also been known to make homemade muffins – which were yummy!

The B&B also has an assortment of pop you can buy onsite @ $2.00/ea.  

As with the aurora borealis photography (an absolute must do!), the B&B also offers photography tours, guided by professional photographer and co-owner Angela Mak herself!  The tour includes the Cape Merry Battery, the Miss Piggy plane wreck, the Polar Bear jail, the SS Ithaca shipwreck and lunch at Northern Study Center.  After lunch, you visit the Rocket Research Range, Churchill Golf Balls, and drive down Launch Road (with the possibility to view polar bears and other wildlife). I saw 2 polar bears on Launch Road as well as an American Eagle, a Golden Eagle, a flock of Sandhill Cranes, a pair of Trumpeter Swans and more). Since your tour includes professional photos of your adventure, she’ll edit them and airdrop them to you. At only $99/pp for 2+ hours, this is a steal in my opinion. Other tours cost the same but with no professional photos. This is worth every penny in my opinion! 

Suggestion: I did this tour twice, and my suggestion is to bring water (it can get quite dry due to the gravel roads and salt water air) and a snack (you can be out longer than 2 hours sometimes).  You’ll also want to bring along your binoculars for scoping out wildlife and polar bears.  Wear a solid pair or running shoes or hiking boots – you’ll be hiking over some rocks and uneven terrain at Cape Merry (but there are pathways in the event you want to stay on even surface) and again at Miss Piggy if you’d like to get up on the plane’s wing and explore inside. You’ll also want to apply bug spray and/or your mosquito jacket/hat.

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The accommodation offers a tour desk – that is Bill will help you arrange tickets for whichever tour you’re wanting to go on from Tundra Buggy to kayaking with the belugas.

The site also offers luggage storage prior to check-in and after check out – which I needed on both occasions. This allowed me the opportunity the explore while waiting for check in or my departure train.

Angela and I even went wild blueberry picking before my train back to Thompson, so I could have some for the ride back . Not too many owners would take the time out of their day to do that with a guest.

The environment that was my home for 5 days was a place where I felt safe, relaxed and very comfortable. Bill and Angela were the friendliest and warmest people I could have asked for. They went out of their ways to ensure I had a great stay and because of that, my trip to Churchill was one for the ages.

As they stay … come for the place, stay for the people (I wish I could have stayed longer).

Related Blogs to Help You Plan Your Trip to Churchill

Exploring the Wonders of Churchill

Where to Eat In Churchill

How to Get to Churchill

On Travel: Last Stop, Churchill – My Journey to the Far North

Churchill, Manitoba is as close to a frontier town as there is in Canada. Churchill is Manitoba’s northernmost community, and is located where the boreal forest meets the tundra, on the shores of Hudson Bay, bordering the newest Canadian territory of Nunavut.  The town sits on a narrow point of land bound by the ocean to the north and the Churchill River to the south and west. 

Second polar bear sighting

Churchill is the furthest North I’ve traveled in Canada, in fact, anywhere. Visiting this town in the far tundra north has been on my “bucket list” for ages and while I’m back here in Manitoba, renovating my house to sell, I thought “hey let’s do it … I’m here, why not?”. 

The town is known for its polar bears, beluga whales (also known as ocean canaries) and is one of the most premier places in Canada to see the Northern Lights dance in the night sky. These things and more have made Churchill the pinnacle go to place for adventure and wildlife seekers from around the globe.

In this blog series I share with you my personal experiences of life and tourism in this amazing town full of culture, flora and fauna.

Are you ready? Let’s go …….

The Basics

The town of Churchill has a year-round population of under 900. 

Churchill’s human history goes back 4,000 years, with the Inuit, Dene, and Swampy Cree all having a connection to this land and the wildlife that sustained them.

Churchill is touted as the Polar Bear Capital of the World, the Beluga Whale Capital of the World, and one of the best places to experience sub-Arctic tundra AND the Northern Lights (aurora borealis).

Polar bears come onto land every July when the Hudson Bay ice breaks up. In autumn, scores of these great white bears gather along the shores of the bay, waiting for the ice to form so they can venture back out to hunt their favourite food – ring seal. Pregnant females go inland into dens to have cubs in late November and re-emerge in mid-February, when they return to the sea ice.

The Northern Lights can be seen 300/365 days per year!

From June to September, approximately 3,000 Beluga whales visit the Churchill River basin and approximately 60,000 come into the Hudson Bay area. Not only can you go whale watching but you will also have the chance to get up close and personal to these incredibly friendly creatures.

How to Get to Churchill

Churchill is located on the edge of the Arctic. This remote Canadian town on the shores of Hudson Bay is 1,006 km north of Winnipeg.  There are no roads that lead to Churchill, you can only get there by train or plane (… planes, trains and no automobiles – insert John Candy and Steve Martin laugh here lol).

Air

Air travel to Churchill is operated by Calm Air. The small Manitoba airline has flights from Winnipeg and Thompson through Churchill and up to Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. Although flights to Churchill may be more expensive than the train, they usually only take about 2.5 hours from Winnipeg. While not cost effective, it is definitely time effective.  

Train 

Many travellers opt for the scenic route, myself included.  The Winnipeg-Churchill train is the only dry land connection to the community. The 1697 km journey takes about 45 hours from Manitoba’s capital of Winnipeg (count on it being longer,  there are often delays, be flexible with your itinerary).  The train travels at low speed due to the topography the rails lay on.  

I am currently in Dauphin, Manitoba, so, I drove to Thompson, Manitoba, about a 7-hour drive.  I could have taken the train from Dauphin, but I planned on making some stops on the way back to explore and it actually takes much less time to drive than take the train. The train to Churchill, takes about 19h20 to get from Dauphin to Thompson, as is goes through parts of Saskatchewan was well. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the sleeper cabins were not available, nor was the 360˚observation dome. 

The seats are quite comfortable and recline most of the way back, there is a foot rest which goes up to level as well.  There are no assigned seats in economy class, so I was able to choose my own seat. I located quad seating with two rows facing each other (if you can’t find one already turned, you can turn them yourself) …  perfect for sleeping.

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The seats have plugs to charge your phone or laptop.  There is no available wi-fi because there isn’t any internet service along the route.  You will not have service for the trip’s entirety, until just before you arrive in Churchill.  

Each car has a filtered water fountain available at no charge. 

VIA offers some on-board services such as sandwiches, snacks, coffee (it was decent) and alcohol (a standard 12 oz can or Coors light cost me $7.00).  

It cost me $144.90 for this leg of the trip (return), I used the 33% discount offered to people of Indigenous heritage – have proof of identification when you board.  You can book your train trip to Churchill via the VIA Rail website.  

Train suggestions:

  • bring a blanket and a pillow
  • bring food – I purchased a pizza from Quiznos for the train ride up
  • bring your own drinks, if you prefer not to purchase on board
  • bring a book to read (currently reading An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Chris Hadfield)
  • bring a few games – I brought a deck of cards, crossword puzzle and Yahtzee
  • download some podcasts to listen to or some audio books
  • download some Netflix shows

Welcome to Churchill

This small and quaint town hugs the western shore of Hudson Bay, the town lies directly in the path of the migratory route for the largest concentration of polar bears that come ashore to hunt for seals every Fall. As I mentioned, it’s the Polar Bear Capital of the World, and the town is built in the bears migration path.  When the sun goes down here the locals know to watch their backs. Tourists are advised to do the same. An alarm sounds at 10:00 p.m. promptly, each night.  Don’t be alarmed (no pun intended). No one warned me upon arrival, I was scared half to death it was a warning that there was a bear currently in town. The siren (long and loud) is a voluntary curfew as part of the Polar Bear Alert program.

Upon arrival in Churchill, after 17 hours on the train

** If travelling via train, you will arrive at the historic Churchill train station.  Walking straight out of the station, about 100 metres will bring you to Kelsey Rd – the town’s main drag. 

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** The airport is just outside of town – you can likely make arrangements with your hotel, Inn or B&B to retrieve you.  If not, there is a taxi in town – Churchill Taxi – (204) 675-2345.

** Car doors are never locked in case a passerby needs immediate protection from a polar bear and polar bear costumes are strictly prohibited for treat-or-treaters during Halloween.

What To Pack :

Summer is a beautiful time to visit Churchill, the flora is teeming with colourful blooms, the beluga whales are swimming into the Churchill River by the thousands, and the long Summer days offer plenty of daylight to view incredible wildlife. I went from August 26-August 31.  It’s just at the end of the Summer season – the belugas are getting ready to leave and the polar bears aren’t quite ready to hitch a ride on the ice quite yet (that starts the beginning of October and lasts about 6 weeks), BUT my adventure DID NOT DISAPPOINT!  I saw everything I came to see and more.

Although Churchill is considered a subarctic climate, you may be surprised to hear that it can get quite warm in the Summer.  The 5 days I was there it was 21˚C-22˚C with the sun out, it was hot.  

My list is for the Summer months, I’ve not included the basics you should pack (that’s up to you).

Boots, Socks and Jacket: In the Summer you can get by with a solid pair of running shoes or hiking boots. I arrived in Churchill on August 26, 2021 and it was 22˚C, it was GORGEOUS!  This is my favourite weather.  I was comfortable wearing my Adidas slides while out and about around town, for any distances I wore my hiking boots.  

In terms of coats, I brought my light down filled puffer coat (that I normally wear for hiking) and a lined lumberjacket so I could layer. I didn’t require either of them during the day, however it did get cooler at night, especially by the bay watching the auroras.  

Hat and Gloves: I brought a pair of mitts and a pair of thin knit gloves.  I also brought a Carhartt toque.  I only used these in the evenings watching the Northern Lights.  But you never know when the weather will turn so come prepared for anything.

A Good Camera: Unfortunately, I didn’t bring my decent Sony Alpha, I wasn’t expecting to be in Manitoba as long as I have been, and I thought of it too late to have it shipped out to me.  Even if I did, I still haven’t purchased a 300 mm lens.  So, I managed as best I could with my iPhone 8 Plus which has dual cameras and takes decent photos. 

Thankfully Angela at my B&B is a professional photographer and offers town tours if you stay that the B&B, for $99.00/pp for 2+ hours  …. WORTH every cent! I will discuss where I stayed in a separate blog.

I also Airdrop swapped with others.  

Binoculars: You could use a monocular if you prefer, you just need something that can help you see at a distance. I found these helpful to view birds and scope out polar bears.  Binoculars are also an ideal way to view the night sky. Even inexpensive models can give depth to craters on the moon, and enhance the colour and shape of stars and planets.  I picked mine up for under $20.00 at Walmart.  

Deterrents: When visiting Churchill, you should be aware that a polar bear may be encountered anywhere at any time of the year and while not expected, be prepared (like a good Scout!).  Before your trip, discuss possible plans of action for dealing with bears in a variety of circumstances and be sure everyone understands what to do. The actions of each individual either contribute to or detract from the safety of everyone else. For information on how to deal with a possible encounter read this pamphlet here, specifically created by the government of Manitoba to address visits to Churchill.  

You can consider an air-horn and/or pepper spray (which may freeze in cold weather). 

I brought a bear whistle and a bear bell, which I also picked up at Walmart. I don’t know why they’re so much more expensive online, I purchased mine in-store for $3.98.

Bug repellent and/or bug jacket, mosquito net hat:  I can’t stress this enough.  Depending on the time of year you come, you should give serious consideration to bringing one or all of these items.  I can’t even start to count the mosquito bites on my neck and ankles.  It’s also a good idea to bring some After Bite.  

Lip balm and moisturizer:  Churchill has a subarctic climate.  It’s also on the ocean.  It could be salt in the air, the days out walking as the wind swept or traveling in the van with the windows open but my skin and lips were constantly craving moisture.

Reusable travel mug or water bottle:  The tap water in Churchill is excellent. I mainly drink water, from the tap if I can – I prefer not to purchase single use disposable water bottles or any type of single use bottle for that matter.  It’s a good idea to bring one, I did and I used it daily.  Also, cases of water up there are super expensive.  I’ll write about food prices separately, but a case of Nestle water was $25.95 at Tamarack Foods.  Do your pocketbook and the environment a favour by bringing a reusable water bottle. 

Ok folks …. that takes care of how to get to Churchill and what to bring …. tune in for the next blog …. “Things I Did” … where I’ll go through all the things I did while in town (which is pretty much everything a tourist would want to do).  I’ll also provide you with the historical significance and/or backstory of each of the site as well as some photos.  

Related Blogs to Help You Plan Your Trip to Churchill

Exploring the Wonders of Churchill

Where to Eat In Churchill

Where I Stayed, Is a Must Stay

Ready to start planning your trip to CHURCHILL?

VIA Rail Train

Urbex: Exploration of an Abandoned Bowling Alley

After three quarters of a century in the Cambridge area of Waterloo Region, the pins fell for the last time at this bowling alley on May 7, 2017.  The longtime family business sold the land to a developer, who plans to build apartments.  

The developer ran into financial problems and the site has been untouched for 3+ years (the property was on the market for $4.25 million). It has sat abandoned since that time and is quite the disaster on the inside. 

We came across the site as a second location when the place we were hoping to scope out beside this was one was impenetrable – it was an old antiques/junk shop.  

Before we get into this explore, I’ll share some photos I located prior to its doors closing in 2017.

This isn’t my typical type of explore, I prefer abandoned farm houses, they tend to tell more of a story. This bowling alley has become home to those who have none and to intravenous drug users. This is by far the most derelict site I’ve explored to date.  So … I guess it does have a story after all.  

There’s only one way in and out. It’s been scavenged by scrappers looking for copper to sell for some coin.  It’s super dark inside, the only light is from the flashlight on our phones. It has a stench of wet carpet, urine and discarded rotting food.   

Toward the back corner, there’s a bed – it’s made and there’s some personal affects with it. We happened upon a gentleman who was using the space as his home. He’s had some family issues and said that no one in his family liked him much and wanted him to leave (sad). He says he does his best to to keep the place as “tidy” as he can, kicking away and throwing IV drug needles toward a pile that no one ventures into.

It is only mildly reminiscent of a bowling alley that was the at the height of its peak 10-15 years ago.  

Despite it being sooooo dark – and mostly decimated – we were able to take pics of a few items (including but not limited to) that identified it as bowling lanes:

  • League banners that once hung from the rafters
  • An old nacho machine
  • Bowling ball returns
  • Snack and Drink Bar Menu
  • The old stove – and a pot from the kitchen
  • TV Score Boards
  • The alley’s Mascot costume

Although a very different explore than my norm, it was still an interesting location. There’s history in every place we enter.

IF these walls could talk, I’m sure they’d speak to all the fun times kids had here for their birthday parties. The giddiness of first dates. Of bowling records being broken and personal bests being set. What about the tales of friendship, comradely and competition? The laughter of bowling a gutter ball or the fist pump of bowling a strike …

Urbex: The Ongoing Story of the Eccentric Pastor Lee House

*** check back often, this is a living blog and will be updated regularly with new info ***

It has been a hot minute since I’ve posted … I’ve been embroiled in a landlord/tenant matter, wherein I repossessed my home from crappy tenants and have spent the better part of the last 6 weeks renovating it – they left it in such a shambles (ugh) … I’ll post on that separately, they completely ruined the house.   

However, while I’m in here, in Dauphin, Manitoba renovating the house, getting it ready to sell, I wanted to pick up the story of the Lee’s.  If you haven’t read the blog on the oddity of the Pastor Lee House in Haldimand County, Ontario or watched the YouTube video click here (blog) and here (video), for some background of relatedness.  It’s such an interesting story, they were such an eccentric family or maybe Gordon more-so. 

While exploring their abandoned house, my urbex partner, Thomas randomly found a photo of Gordon in Dauphin, as a child.   I took it to be a sign that I needed to continue researching this family.  I mean what are the odds that in an abandoned house with tons of stuff strewn all over the place, thousands of photos and slides messed about the 2 story home, that had been abandoned for years, that he would come across a photo taken in Dauphin and take a snapshot of it?  He wasn’t aware that I had lived in Dauphin from 2015 to 2017, nor that I was heading back to town to repossess my home.  Honestly, I didn’t even know he had found the photo until he sent me his shots and videos from the explore to create the content!  Ironic?  Serendipitous?   Coincidence?  I’ll let you decide … 

Here’s what we know so far …

From visiting their home and our previous research, we know that Esther obtained her diploma from the Moody Blue Institute in Chicago. Arthur was in the military and then became a Pastor. They purchased the house in Haldimand County, Ontario, which is now abandoned.  They had 3 children.  And, at one point in/about 1943 they were either living in or visiting Dauphin, Manitoba … but why?  

That’s what I’m going to try and find out while I’m here.

Here’s what I was able to newly locate … 

This information should get us started in figuring out why the Lee’s were in Dauphin, of all places.  

In or about 1925 Esther departed for Africa as part of a missionary group, I have a newspaper lead that they were doing missionary work in Nigeria – unfortunately, the article is too small to be legible. However, I was able to confirm this by locating the Caronia‘s ship manifest, which confirms the 32 year old was a missionary, heading to Minna, Nigeria.

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I was unable to locate Arthur on the ship’s manifest or any other manifest as of yet.

Apparently Arthur and Esther married there in 1927 (I have been unable to confirm this for myself).

At some point they returned to North America.   I have yet to determine when exactly, but according to the newspaper articles below, they were at least back in the U.S. by 7 Aug 1930.

I was also able to locate on Ancestry.ca information that Arthur and Esther in fact had another son, Walter who passed away in 1938 at the age of 5 of spinal meningitis (18 Nov 1932 – 19 Apr 1938). It’s said that he passed away in Africa, this part I am unable to confirm for myself.

I understand from another blogger that throughout the 1960’s Rev. Lee worked as a Teacher in Slave Lake, Alberta and retired in 1965. However, we have it confirmed that in 1948 the Lee’s had purchased their home in Haldimand County, Ontario.  So, how does all of this fit together? I have no confirmation that he taught in Slave Lake as of yet.

I also read a blog that said that Rev. Lee was a Pastor of Baptist churches in both Manitoba and Ontario.

We also have this to go on … the  photo that Thomas found during our explore of the Pastor Lee house.  

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Before we delve into this further  … Dauphin facts:

  • Dauphin has a population of 8,457 as of the 2016 Canadian Census, with an additional 2,388 living in the surrounding Rural Municipality of Dauphin, for a total of 10,845 in the RM and City combined. Dauphin is Manitoba’s 9th largest community and serves as a hub to the province’s Parkland Region.
  • You can get anywhere in town in about 5-7 minutes, unless the train comes through. 
  • It is actually situated on the 100th meridian, for anyone who finds that as fascinating as I do.
  • It’s known as the “City of Sunshine”
  • Norwex’s Canadian Head Office is located here.
  • It’s home to Canada’s National Ukrainian Festival and Dauphin’s Countryfest, Canada’s longest-running country music festival.
  • It lies along the Vermilion River just west of Dauphin Lake, and is 323 kms northwest of Winnipeg. 
  • Dauphin is near Duck Mountain Provincial Park and Riding Mountain National Park, just west of Lake Manitoba and Dauphin Lake and south of Lake Winnipegosis.
  • The French trader and explorer Pierre Gaultier de Varennes, sieur de La Vérendrye named the nearby lake, Dauphin, in 1741 in honour of the heir to the French throne, the Dauphin of France (Prince of Wales)
  • The province was founded on parts of the traditional territories of the Assiniboine, Dakota, Cree, Dene, Anishinaabeg and Oji-Cree peoples, and on the homeland of the Métis Nation. 
  • As of the 2016 census, Manitoba had 1,278,365 residents, making it the fifth most populous province or territory in Canada (I came here from Toronto, the GTA alone has 6,254,571).
  • Dauphin was incorporated as a city in 1998.

Ok, so now that you have some tidbits of info on the “city” itself, you get that it’s small and it would have been much smaller in 1943 when the photo was taken. I was unable to locate the population of Dauphin back in the 1940’s but Manitoba’s entire population was only 921,686 in 1961.

The search for the house in the photo …. 

The handwriting at the back of the photo says this … “Donald Lee in centre with girls at Mrs Chase’s (not in view) house on first street north of railroad, across street from station. Dauphin, Manitoba about 1943. Looking west towards Vermillion River”

Ok, so let’s look at this map I created … 

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Locate the relevant points that she mentions:

  • The train station (on map as Dauphin Rail Museum) 
  • Vermillion River (on map as Vermillion Park & Campground and Vermillion River)
  • 1st Street – she doesn’t specify NW, but it’s implied by her saying “north of railroad, across street from (train) station” and also by her saying “looking west towards Vermillion River”.  Plus, it’s the only 1st St., the other is 1st Ave. 
  • Based on that information, I feel the house has to be located near the star I put near the Watson Art Centre.

I live only 3 blocks from where the photo was apparently taken.  Literally …. just down 2nd Ave SW (follow arrow on map) til I hit 1st Ave SW and turn right to get to the train station, the 1st right directly in front of the train station is 1st St NW.  Vermillion Park is directly at the end of 2nd Ave SW.  So, that’s where I’m going to start my search, I’m going to try and track down this particular house.  I’m going to check out the houses in the block of 1st Ave SW and 1st Ave NW AND 2nd Ave SW and 2nd St NW (looking Westward toward the River).  I know the area well,  I feel it’s doubtful that the house still exists or perhaps it’s been modified to look differently than it did back then.   

Ok, so here are some photos I took for point of view and real life perspective.

This is the Dauphin Train Station, it was built in 1912, and was standing while the Lee’s were here in 1943.  

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Immediately in front of the train station – 1st Ave SW and 1st St NW

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Below you can see The Watson Art Centre which is directly in front of the train station, it was established in 1905 and was the old fire hall, so that building existed when the Lee’s would have been here. Photo was taken standing in front of the train station looking westward toward Vermillion River.

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I looked at the houses to see if they resembled the house in the photo OR if there was any possibility that the house could have been updated or added onto.  I paid particular attention to  the east side of 1st St NW because the photo says that the children were looking westward toward Vermillion River. However, upon further reflection it’s not immediately clear if the children or the photographer is looking west.   

This house has the most resemblance.  I initially took the photo as if the children were looking westward toward Vermillion River.

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Then I took the photo from the east side as if the photographer was looking westward toward Vermillion River.

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After side by side comparison – it does not appear to be the house in the 1943 photo even accounting for upgrades and improvements.  The window placements are off.

Now, it wouldn’t have been uncommon for prairie houses to be similar and side by side, especially if family owned – so I thought “what if it had a next door twin at some point?”  With that, I went back to double check and BINGO there’s a vacant lot where a house would have once stood immediately beside that house!  Could the house we’re looking for have stood there at one point?

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Immediately across the street from the train station is a white building which is definitely not the house in the in picture. Maybe the house was situated there prior?

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It is not stated how far down the street the house it, just that it’s north of the tracks, across the street from the station, so I was assuming relatively close to the station … however, just to be certain  I went down to the end, until I hit River Rd. and only found 1 possibility but I don’t think it’s it, it was further down than I expected it to be and it doesn’t seem to match.   

There were also 2-3 vacant plots and a new building where Ashcroft Vision Care is now and the newer built Baptist church (from the 1 that was on Main St) which was built on 1st St SW and 3rd Ave NW in 1960 (below 1st photo).

Maybe the house was on 1 of these lands?  So, that’s a dead end folks … for now.  I’ll keep digging.

The (re)search goes on and on and on …

Ok, I’m back to doing more research …. using my ancestry.ca account and doing some general Google searches to see what I can come up with.  

I was able to locate an account that has some interesting information linked to Esther herself, but encapsulates both she and Rev. Lee (the reason being is that the person who was doing the research was investigating Esther’s time at Moody Bible College).  

 I found a few newspaper clippings to be of interest: 

7 Aug 7 1930 – Albany, Misouri 

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20 Dec 1934Albany, Missouri

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20 Dec 1934 – Albany, Missouri

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Note: Albany is a city and county seat of Gentry County, Missouri, USA. The population was 1,730 at the 2010 census.  Esther was born in Gentry, Missouri. I’m guessing that Albany was her hometown, the reason being is that they consistently refer to her as “formerly Miss Esther Gladstone”, likely so those reading the newspaper would recognize her by her maiden name and come out to hear them speak.

Trying to fill in the gap …

Those newspaper clippings were still a full 9 years before the photo in Dauphin was taken … what did they do in those 9 years?  Did they return to Africa for another mission as one of the clippings  would suggest?

I decided to check to see if Dauphin had a Baptist Church back in 1943 and run on the basis that the other blogger’s notation was fact … that Rev. Lee preached in Manitoba.  I’m running into a bunch of dead ends so, no harm in trying.   I know there’s a church now on 3rd Ave NW but did one exist then?  The answer is yes it did, but it was in a different location, on Main Street.  Dauphin has had a Baptist church for that last 120 years.  

Maybe I can contact the church to see if they have a list of all the Pastors?  

Mrs. Chase, who and where are you? …

I decided to try and see if I could track down the Mrs. Chase as was documented and not in view on the back of the photo.  All I knew was that her name was Mrs. Chase.  I knew she was married because if the Mrs. and that her last name was Chase and nothing else.  I was able to find 2 male Chases with wives in the 1940 Canada Voters list for Dauphin … a Mrs. Earle Chase and a Mrs. Darwin Chase, but no addresses.   

Maybe I can hit up the land registry office?

Does anyone know anything? …. 

I have a neighbour, Amy, she’s been around town for many years – maybe she know something about Pastor Lee, Esther or of a Mrs. Chase?  Let’s ask Amy and see.  Stay tuned!

Ok, so, as of today (31 Jul 2021) that’s what I’ve been able to dig up on the Lees.  As I mentioned above, this is going to be an ongoing updated blog, so be sure to check back often.

HELP — Also, I’m open to help, if anyone knows how I can dig further into this or has any clues or tips — comment below.  

I find the story of the Lees fascinating for some reason, and I feel compelled to know more about them.

On Genealogy: MY Relation to Ezra CORNELL – Founder of Cornell University

I haven’t blogged in a long while, and while I’m at a dead end in another line of my tree, I decided to do more research on the Cornells. I wondered if it was the same “Cornell” that is synonymous with the Ivy League American University – Cornell.

My fifth cousin 6 times removed OR 7th great uncle’s second cousin twice removed whichever way you look at it, is Ezra Cornell (January 11, 1807 – December 9, 1874). He was an American businessman and education administrator. He was a founder of Western Union and a co-founder of Cornell University. He also served as President of the New York Agriculture Society and as a State Senator.

My relation to Ezra is two fold – direct blood line and in-law relationship as shown below:

Ezra was born in Westchester County, New York, the son of a potter, Elijah Cornell, and was raised near DeRuyter, New York. He was a first cousin, five times removed of Benjamin Franklin on his maternal grandmother’s side. He was also a cousin of Paul Cornell, the founder of Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. Having traveled extensively as a carpenter in New York State, Ezra, upon first setting eyes on Cayuga Lake and Ithaca, decided Ithaca would be his future home.

After settling in at Ithaca, NY, Ezra quickly went to work proving himself as a Carpenter. Colonel Beebe took notice of the industrious young man and made him the manager of his mill at Fall Creek.

Ezra Cornell was a birthright Quaker, but was later disowned by the Society of Friends for marrying outside of the faith to a world’s woman, a Methodist by the name of Mary Ann Wood. Ezra and Mary Ann were married March 19, 1831, in Dryden, New York.

On February 24, 1832, Ezra Cornell wrote the following response to his expulsion from The Society of Friends due to his marriage to Mary Ann Wood:

“I have always considered that choosing a companion for life was a very important affair and that my happiness or misery in this life depended on the choice”.

The young and growing family needed more income than could be earned as Manager of Beebe’s Mills. Having purchased rights in a patent for a new type of plow, Ezra began what would be decades of travelling away from Ithaca. His territories for sales of the plow were the states of Maine and Georgia. His plan was to sell in Maine in the summer and the milder Georgia in the winter. With limited means, what transported Ezra between the two states were his own two feet.

Connection to Morse Code & Western Union

Happening into the offices of the Maine Farmer in 1842, Cornell saw an acquaintance of his, one F.O.J. Smith, bent over some plans for a “scraper” as Smith called it. For services rendered, Smith had been granted a one-quarter share of the telegraph patent held by Samuel F.B. Morse, and was attempting to devise a way of burying the telegraph lines in the ground in lead pipe. Ezra’s knowledge of plows was put to the test and Ezra devised a special kind of plow that would dig a 2 feet 6 inches ditch, lay the pipe and telegraph wire in the ditch and cover it back up as it went. Later it was found that condensation in the pipes and poor insulation of the wires impeded the electrical current on the wires and so hanging the wire from telegraph poles became the accepted method. 

Cornell made his fortune in the telegraph business as an associate of Samuel Morse, having gained his trust by constructing and stringing the poles for the Baltimore–Washington telegraph line, the first telegraph line of substance, in the U.S. to address the problem of telegraph lines shorting out to the ground, Cornell invented the idea of using glass insulators at the point where telegraph lines are connected to supporting poles. After joining with Morse, Cornell supervised the erection of many telegraph lines, including a portion of the New York, Albany & Buffalo line in 1846 and the Erie and Michigan Telegraph Company connecting Buffalo to Milwaukee with partners John James Speed and Francis Ormand Jonathan Smith. Cornell, Speed and Smith also built the New York and Erie line competing with and paralleling to the south the New York, Albany and Buffalo line in which Morse had a major share. The line was completed in 1849 and Cornell was made president of the company.

Cornell’s sister, Phoebe, married Martin B. Wood and moved to Albion, Michigan, in 1848. Cornell gave Wood a job constructing new lines and made Phoebe his telegraph operator, the first woman operator in the United States.

Cornell earned a substantial fortune when the Erie and Michigan was consolidated with Hiram Sibley and his New York and Mississippi Company to form the Western Union company. Cornell received two million in Western Union stock.

Ezra made his fortune in the telegraph business as an associate of Samuel Morse (yes, that Morse as in Morse Code – Samuel F.B. Morse who developed an electric telegraph and then invented, with his friend Alfred Vail, the Morse Code  in 1838) , having gained his trust by constructing and stringing the telegraph poles between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, as the first ever telegraph line of substance in the U.S. To address the problem of telegraph lines shorting out to the ground, Cornell invented the idea of using glass insulators at the point where telegraph lines are connected to supporting poles. After joining with Morse, Cornell supervised the erection of many telegraph lines, including the Erie and Michigan Telegraph Company connecting Buffalo to Milwaukee. He earned a substantial fortune as a founder of the Western Union company.

Member of Republic Party

Cornell was a Republican member of the New York State Assembly (Tompkins Co.) in 1862 and 1863; and of the New York State Senate from 1864 to 1867, sitting in the 87th, 88th, 89th and 90th New York State Legislatures.

Cornell University and Free Library

Cornell retired from Western Union and turned his attention to philanthropy. He endowed the Cornell Library, a public library for the citizens of Ithaca. A lifelong enthusiast of science and agriculture, he saw great opportunity in the 1862 Morrill Land-Grant Colleges Act to found a university that would teach practical subjects on an equal basis with the classics favored by more traditional institutions. Andrew Dickson White helped secure the new institution’s status as New York’s land grant university, and Cornell University was granted a charter through their efforts in 1865.

This bronze statue of Ezra Cornell by Hermon Atkins MacNeil was erected on the university’s Arts Quad in 1919.

Cornell University derived far greater revenues than earlier land grant colleges, largely from real estate transactions directed by Ezra Cornell. Under the land-grant program, the Federal government issued the colleges scrip, documents granting the right to select a parcel of land. These colleges generally promptly sold their scrip. Ezra Cornell, on the other hand held most of the scrip, anticipating it would increase in price.He also redeemed some scrip for promising land or for rights in timber, most notably pine forest in Wisconsin. While the first land-grant colleges received around half a dollar per acre, Cornell netted an average of over five dollars per acre in 1905. 

Later Life

Ezra Cornell entered the railroad business, but fared poorly due to the Panic of 1873. He began construction of a palatial Ithaca mansion, Llenroc (Cornell spelled in reverse) to replace his farmhouse, Forest Home, but died before it was completed. Llenroc was maintained by Cornell’s heirs for several decades until being sold to the local chapter of the Delta Phi fraternity, which occupies it to this day; Forest Home was sold to the Delta Tau Delta chapter and later demolished. Cornell is interred in Sage Chapel on Cornell’s campus, along with Daniel Willard Fiske and Jennie McGraw.

Llenroc, home of Ezra Cornell

A prolific letter writer, Ezra corresponded with a great many people and would write dozens of letters each week. This was due partly to his wide travelling, and also to the many business associates he maintained during his years as an entrepreneur and later as a politician and university founder. Cornell University has made the approximately 30,000 letters in the Cornell Correspondence available online.

His eldest son, Alonzo B. Cornell, was later governor of New York. Since its founding, the University’s charter specified that the eldest lineal descendent of Cornell is granted a life seat on Cornell University’s Board of Trustees. Since Ezra Cornell IV took the post on November 17, 1969, the law was amended from specifying the “eldest male lineal descendent.”

In 1990, G. David Low, graduate of Cornell University and Space Shuttle astronaut, took with him into outer space a pair of tan silk socks worn by Ezra Cornell on his wedding day in 1831.

Honestly, I can’t even get over how a commoner like myself has so much history in her blood, her roots. If you haven’t had the chance, take a look at my other ancestral connections – too many to name. I’m again floored that his ONE LINE in my tree to America has yielded so many amazing finds.

Genealogy is my passion, I can’t wait to see who else I’m connected to. Stay tuned and follow for more …..

Urbex: Exploring an Abandoned Strawberry Farm

In this blog, we are exploring the abandoned Stoll Strawberry Farm in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. It is a more recent abandon, 2017. We came upon this find as a “trade” with another urbexer.

The video version of this urbex can be viewed here.

We only had time to explore the house, we were losing daylight and will have to return later this week to explore the very large barn on the property. Be sure to stay tuned for part 2, coming your way soon!

I’ll categorize the house into 2 parts – the main floor and the upper apartment. Both form part of the same large home, but the upper floor appears to have been converted to a separate apartment to live in, whilst leaving the main floor relatively unused.

History on the house’s ownership can be found further below.

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Main Floor

The front entry to the house was not used and was covered in plastic assumedly to prevent the cold air from entering and to try to stop heat loss.

The main part of the home – the entry to the left – appears to be an abandoned part of the dwelling – it contains a large kitchen with original Lakewood woods stove, a dining room on the other side of the kitchen with an attached lounge. The main floor also holds a formal sitting room containing the most gorgeous fireplace with stunning inner hearth tiling. Where the stairs to the upper floor would be situated, it is drywalled off.

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Lakewood Wood Stove

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Oct 10, 1915

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This section seemed to not be lived in on a regular basis as most of the owners belongings can be found upstairs in the apartment – which is the entryway to the right.

The most interesting items of this explore seem to be in the decayed addition at the rear of the house. The roof has partially caved in. Here we found old magazines – mainly from 1926 and 1930, an old Sears cash register and 4 deer hoofs.

Upper Apartment

The upstairs rooms were then made into an apartment, separate apartment in the house where the owner resided instead. The apartment has a look and vibe of the 80’s / 90’s; based on the carpet, the built in fireplace, the wood plank kitchen ceiling. We had just started the very large barn, but we lost daylight, so we will go back shortly.

What We Know About the Last Owner

The farm belonged to a 75-year-old retired strawberry farmer, who was mowing his grass on his tractor, pulling the mower behind him, in the late afternoon of July 19, 2017. He was going up a steep incline when the tractor tipped over onto him. Several passersby stopped, freed him from the tractor, and administered CPR. He was rushed to hospital, and later pronounced dead.

According to his obituary, strawberry farmer was born in Speyer, Rhein, Germany on December 3, 1941. He had a profound passion for farming and providing fresh food to families in the community. He started growing strawberries in 1975 in Germany amongst other fruits, vegetables and cash crops. He immigrated with his family to Waterloo Region in 1985 to continue the tradition of growing the well known Stoll Strawberries.

** STAY TUNED FOR PART 2 OF THIS URBEX **

Conjecture: based on the presence of numerous local, English-language documents, memorabilia, and paraphernalia dating back as far as the 1910’s-1930’s, these may not have been the strawberry farmer’s items. It could be that he moved into the house and it had a considerable amount of stuff left behind. These items seem to slightly predate the Hallman family’s occupation of the house, but they seem to have been the most settled owners, the ones most likely to have last lived in the main part of the house, and the items are an appropriate age for Mr. Hallman and his wife as things they would have acquired in their 30’s and 40’s. It seems likely to me that these may be the remnant of possessions they brought with them when they moved, that their family likely didn’t care to reclaim and that the strawberry farmer’s family had no interest in either. This makes this site an interesting and somewhat rare example of a family home with actual possessions from several distinct groups of inhabitants, rather than just multiple generations of one family.

Ownership History

Research and information compiled by Thomas Little.

The original Crown grant is to a British land agent [Richard Beasley] in the 1790s.

By 1861, Wm. Hope (William Hope) shows up on one map as the owner with a house squarely where the current one is now. He shows up in censuses as a freeholder, so he would have had title to the land. However, he does not appear anywhere in the records of land transactions, but his neighbour to the north, George Proudfoot, does. The Proudfoot and Hope families show up repeatedly in connection to Ayr [a nearby town] and seem to be Scottish settlers more strongly connected to the adjacent township of North Dumfries who “spilled over” into a township mostly populated at the time by Germans. They are surrounded by other English and Scottish landowners in their area.

Wm Hope property

Toward the 1890s, the Richardson family gets more and more involved, and buying/leasing/mortgaging of the land becomes pretty frequent — it seems that both Proudfoot and Richardson families more or less divided up the corner lot between them, leaving a small half-lot parcel attached to the house after repeatedly buying strips adjoining their own properties.

During the early to mid 20th century it goes through a dizzying succession of hands: Becker, Huber, Hallman. The Hallmans become involved in the 40s and it seems to go to a Mr. Hallman in 1951. One of the longest owners in the 60s is a man named Horst Dreger. The Dreger family seem to have also been postwar German immigrants, if they are the same people — more research might turn up something interesting. Mr. Hallman dies in the mid-60s and is possibly one of the last “in earnest” inhabitants of the house. The late 60s and early 70s are very complex and seem to involve failed attempts by the Dregers to gain the whole parcel of land, while Mr. Hallman’s estate is having complex interactions with the Dept of National Revenue — he could have owed back taxes perhaps.

By the 70s at least part of it is in the hands of the Bayer family who transfer ownership of the land to a company presumably owned by them, maybe for tax reasons. By this point the land parcel is totally chopped up and it’s not clear which was attached to the actual farmhouse, or if anyone was even living in it. This is probably around the time the house started to seriously decay.

The Dreger family members seem to have sued each other in the 70s and this dominates much of the property record for this period. This very likely includes the part with the farmhouse. It seems likely the Dregers lived in the house or at least owned it, while the Bayers farmed the attached fields and had a complex ownership arrangement. The Bayers presumably lived nearby and had other farming operations.

The strawberry farmer steps into the mix with a single clear transfer of ownership from a Hallman family member to him and his wife in 1986. They paid almost half a million dollars — the land would be worth considerably more now. This is the final transaction on record prior to microfilming.

For more urban explore adventures … be sure to follow my blog 🙂

Urbex: The Truest Story About the Abandoned & Eccentric Pastor Lee House

This past weekend we explored the well-known urbex site – the Pastor Lee House in Haldimand County, Ontario. It’s been abandoned forever, has unfortunately been “trashed” and is still a time capsule of bizarre oddities.

The video accompaniment to this blog can be viewed here. Trust me it’s worth the watch!

We spent a couple of hours here … we could have stayed for the whole day poking around, taking turns wandering each room, uncovering different objects and parts of the story or making up our own and sharing them with each other. I’ll definitely be going again, there was just so much to absorb and take in.

Some call this property “creepy”, I prefer to call it eccentric, even interesting. The house belonged to the Lee family. From some of the research I’ve done, it appears as if Esther Gladstone Lee was born on November 3, 1893 (died 1997).  Her husband Arthur Lee appears to have been born in/about 1897 (died: 1971). From the framed diploma found in the house, she graduated from the Moody Bible College in Chicago on August 9, 1923. Not long after, she was married to Arthur and together they had 3 children: Gordon, Dorothy and Donald.

From the road, it resembles almost any other rural home. However, it doesn’t take long to realize that there’s something a little different about this property … the bizarre messages that trail off … painted all over the property are just the first sign.

“Mr. Barry Sheets and his wife, R.R.1 Caledonia opened this door without knocking! And sent thier (their) small child to ???. I was intending to give away four prize winning white roosters. However ?? for breeding. ??? was tricked.

Together they were 5 living in this small country home. They appeared to be somewhat musical from the piano in the living room. Slide negatives show family vacations and outings. There are plenty of video reel and cassette tapes strewn around the property. Oh the tales they would tell if someone took an interest in transferring them to digital (at the time of the visit, I didn’t have the app on my phone that transfers negatives to photo).

The house appears to have been in relatively decent condition until about 2012 from previous vlogs and blogs posted, and then some not so savourables seemed to get a hold of it. The house itself is located in Haldimand County and for reasons as I’ve just mentioned, I won’t be sharing the exact city/town or location.

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Family Info

Esther: Esther left behind a lot of correspondence and seems to have been well-connected and presumably well-liked by people in the area. There were also a number of local history books in the area (history of Renfrew County, On the Trail of the Conestoga) which means she likely had an interest in Ontario local history, pioneers, etc. Perhaps she had pioneer ancestry or she was interested in it from a religious angle. These may have also been Gordon’s. Esther’s health and wellbeing seem to have declined starting in the early 1980s: “A year later mother had a queer spell for two days and laid on the chesterfield and wouldn’t eat or talk. Mother was bother about…” (inferred 1980). She would have been almost 90 by then so it would not have been surprising. Esther died in 1997 according to her gravestone, which would have made her well over 100 years old.

Update – July 17, 2021: A search of my Ancestry.ca account shows her father as being one George Easton Gladstone (B:26 Oct 1858 Ayr, Waterloo Co., Canada, D:24 March 1928 Gentry, Missouri, USA). Her mother appears to be Ella (unable to currently locate her maiden name) (B:6 Oct 1870 Gentry, Missouri, USA, D:24 Jul 1948 , Gentry, Missouri, USA). Esther appears to have been born on Nov 3, 1893 in Gentry, Misouri. By 1920 the US Census has her living in Washington, DC as a “roomer”. We know that she graduated from Moody Bible College in Chicago in August of 1923.

 Balmoral United Church Cemetery in Hagersville, Haldimand, Ontario, Canada

Arthur: Researching Arthur’s military record is troublesome because of several other, much more famous Arthur Lees who were also in the RAF/RCAF. The only 24-year-old Arthur Lee in Canada in 1921 that is a plausible match is a farmer’s son in Alberta – unlikely for a man who apparently graduated from McMaster a few years later. There are no plausible 23 year old Arthur Lees. There aren’t few good candidates in the 1911 census either. It would make sense if Arthur was local to the area because of the McMaster connection and the specific Lee family history in the area, but it could be the reverse – Arthur settled in the area after his time at McMaster. Arthur could have also been American.There are no obvious candidates for Arthur among WWI military records, though he would have been a more appropriate age for that war than for WWII. Arthur died in 1971 according to his gravestone.

Update – July 17, 2021: I’ve been able to locate his actual DOB and location as being 11 Aug 1897 • Brockville, Ontario, Canada. So that removes the possibility that he may have been American. Now we’re getting somewhere. Since I’ve been able to confirm his actual birth information, I was able to narrow down my search and revisit the military records …. and I found them …. his Attestation Papers state that he joined the military on Oct 28, 1915 (he was 19 yrs old and 2 mths). His next of kin is noted as being his mother, Maggie (nee McVish) and James Lee, they lived lived in Mount Denis (which is a part of Toronto). He was listed as being Methodist. He was 5’7.5″, and was considered fit for the CEF (Canadian Expeditionary Force). Unlike my great-grandfather’s, there was no regimental # noted on his file – it does have a notation at the top left – “11th Field Ambulance” – so it looks like he was part of the Canadian Army Medical Corps.

More research has lead me to locate a document from the Library and Archives of Canada. For greater details, see this link here.

11th Field Ambulance

Left Halifax 22 May 1916 aboard ADRIATIC.
Arrived in England 29 May 1916.
Strength: 10 Officers, 179 other ranks.
Arrived in France 11 August 1916.
4th Canadian Division.
Demobilized at Toronto in May 1919.

Arthur Lee graduated from McMaster University in 1924, became a Reverand and traveled to Africa for missionary work. On November 7, 1925 Esther departed New York City for Africa as part of a missionary group from Sim International. In August 1927 the couple married in Africa.

Gordon: Gordon either has not yet died, he was not yet buried at the family plot, or the gravestone website hasn’t been updated. If Gordon were alive, he would be well into his 90s. There is a photo presumably associated with him, found by an explorer, which says “Fern Bertrand – This is the only girl I ever kissed and hugged. 1946.” He would have been 18 at that time. His hobbies and peculiarities make him being a lifelong bachelor unsurprising.

It is assumed that he was the family member who was interested in radio technology and electronics, UFOs, and dead/mutilated animals. 

Electronics

Gordon seems to have been obsessed with electronics, television, radio, and other technology of the “golden age” of the 1950s-60s. This house would have been a collector’s treasure but unfortunately much of it seems to have been smashed, stolen, or has decayed through exposure to weather. This likely tied into his obsession with “weird” phenomena.

Gordon seems to have also had a strong interest in photography and audio/video recording equipment, with numerous film reels and cassettes around the house. Interestingly, many of these cassettes are labelled as “Found along [the nearby highway]”, implying that Gordon didn’t record them.

Some electronics around the property include:
  • Many, many old television sets, a combo unit upstairs of television + record player + speaker
  • What is likely a dosimeter made by the Victoreen company — not exactly a consumer item

Weird phenomena

Gordon seemed to have a fascination with “odd” phenomena such as UFOs, people struck by lightning, and strange happenings. It seems very at odds with his parents, who seemed to be very traditional.

Dead animals

The picture albums of dead animals are one of the most widely speculated-about aspects of the house. There are the photos of dead animals, some skinned, some decapitated – the pages were strewn throughout the house – they appear to have been part of a scrapbook at one time, just as the UFO scrapbooks had been. The photos included geese, possum and racoons. It could be that these were animals injured from passing traffic or by coyotes and Gordon had an interest in photographing them or something darker.

The oddest was a photo we found was of a coon propped up on rods on which he writes on the back “dead racoon, propped up on rods, I wished I could have trained it to be my watchdog!”

Shameless plug to check out the Youtube Vlog, but it’s worth the watch. Photos are great, 100%, I love photography, but I recently started taking up shooting video since it lends different. Here’s the link again. A lot of the stuff not captured by photo are in the vlog and I think we did a really great job at cutting down 2 hours of footage down to 19 mins or so.

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Many of the photos seem to date from the 1970s or maybe 1980s. The nearby highway was well-known as a trucking “shortcut” in the mid-20th century for Detroit-Buffalo and other American trucking lines, and especially with the decline of parallel railways like the Michigan Southern/CASO, it would have seen an abrupt increase in trucking traffic, likely at all hours of the day and night, that local people and wildlife would have been unprepared for. Today this has largely abated as a result of the newer freeway that runs parallel.

Gordon seems to connect some of the animal deaths to rabies, which is possible in the case of animals like the raccoons. The sheer amount of roadkill would be explainable if the photos were taken over many years, and if walking or driving the highway was one of Gordon’s main pastimes – which would make sense if he spent his entire life living with his mother and needed to get out of the house.

Dorothy: Dorothy moved to London, Kentucky, and married Dr. Edward Lauber. Her obituary is very brief.

Donald: He seems like a much less impactful figure than Gordon or his parents, but nevertheless seems to have participated in “cleaning up” the property at some point around 1994 and helped Gordon paint the messages around the exteriors of the buildings. They seem to have been friendly with each other. It is unknown how much time Donald spent at the house as an adult and whether or not some of his areas/possessions might have been misattributed to Gordon — or perhaps they shared similar interests in areas like technology. Talking Walls site says he moved to Mount Hope. He had a wife (Joan) according to his obituary, but no children are mentioned. In his obituary Gordon is not listed as being predeceased.

Here’s what I do know. We owe it to Gordon and his family to not judge based on the tincy wincy bits and soundtracks we find by invading their home, a place they called safe and felt free from judgement. I just read a really great blog over at Dark Blue Journal about this and encourage to yo give it a quick read. Click link here. Plus, I hope we can all just be better.

For a family of 5, there were way more beds than than there ought to have been. The house has 3 bedrooms upstairs, well the 1 room is so small you can hardly consider it a proper bedroom, but they faceted it as 1. There were also 2 single beds in the front enclosed porch, 2 handmade bunkbeds in a back enclosed/addition to the house and a double sized bed right smack dab in the kitchen. There was also a cot/stretcher found at the top of the back crawlspace which connected both sides of the house. I have located nothing about this, so I am purely speculating here … maybe this was part of their ministry? If she and Arthur were part of the church (Arthur was a Reverend) then maybe they took in folks in need as part of their ministry, wanderers, people who were down and out or provided end of life care? Or maybe they just had a lot of visitors?

Other Bips and Bops of the house ….

Bips and Bops of the Exterior

Property mini timeline

The earliest recorded owner and likely first settler was Harmon Haynes, who lived in the area since at least the 1850s and possibly since the beginning of settlement. He would have been in his 40s then. It is difficult to track later ownership changes due to the constant restructuring of the county and township, which broke up records across different authorities and led to poor record-keeping.

It was purchased by the Lees in 1948 from a Russell Aden Murphy. In the 1921 census, Russell is living with his parents and was only 7 years old, meaning he was likely born around 1914 and would have been in his mid-30s in 1948. His father was 30, meaning he was contemporary with Arthur and Esther. Genealogy sites show the Murphys going back to the 1860s in Canada and seem to have lived outside of the county.

In 1952, there is a set of “release of legacy” actions by various seemingly unrelated people for reasons that are hard to understand, each being $100-300. It could have been people leaving small amounts of money in their wills to Arthur and Esther that was paid directly to their mortgage? This would be in line with the guess that they provided end of life care.

Also in 1952, Arthur and his wife grant a symbolic $1 to the directors of the Veterans’ Land Act, likely due to financial assistance they received in buying the home because of his status as a WWI veteran. The $1 is sent back in 1964.

In 1971, there is some land title activity relating to Arthur’s death, but it doesn’t list an actual title grant to anyone — presumably the land went to Esther and a title change/official grant wasn’t necessary. Paper records end in 2008, long after her death, with nothing more shown. Perhaps they also didn’t feel the need to record ownership changes as a result of inheritance, only transactions, but it shows the house wasn’t bought or sold before that point, and that Gordon is likely still the legal owner, if he is still alive. She may have died without her will being properly executed, which would put the house in legal limbo.

Dauphin Connection

I’m currently and unfortunately embroiled in a landlord-tenant matter with some tenants in 1 of my properties in Dauphin, Manitoba. I lived there for 2 years from 2015-2017.

Whilst my urbex partner Thomas was researching the family history, he documented that the Lees lived in Dauphin, Manitoba at least in the year of 1943.

Well isn’t that ironic, don’t ya think, a little too ironic (thanks Alanis for the lyrics) I’m heading back to Dauphin in a few short weeks to deal with that matter.

THE STORY of THE LEES isn’t over yet folks. When I’m back in Dauphin, I’m going to research them and see what I can come up with. We’ve also decided to go back to the house to see if we can dig up any more photos of their time in Dauphin. Why? What would have brought them to Dauphin of all places? Was it part of their Ministry? Hmmmmm ….

Dauphin is not a thriving metropolis, even now I think the whole surrounding community has approx 8,000. Back in 1943, it would have been so much less. To put it in a bit of perspective compared to Ontario, in which currently the whole GTA (Greater Toronto Area) has approx 6 million people, Manitoba’s population was only 921,686 in 1961.

For now I have this go start my search … and I know the location they’re talking about … I wonder if that house is still there?

Thomas also found a photo during the explore and took a picture of it (ironic) … the back of the photo says … “Donald Lee in centre with girls At Mrs Chase’s (not in view) house on first street north of railroad across street from station. Dauphin Manitoba about 1943. Looking west towards Vermillion River”

Thanks for reading, this has been an amazing explore and this is why Thomas and I do these explores. For us it’s not about being the first to a location, it’s not about taking the best video or the best photos … for us it’s about getting in touch with the people who lived there, their lives, who were they, what happened … for me it’s the connection and this story is still be to continued.

Stay tuned for Part II of the Lee story –> now completed, click here for Part II.

If you like what we’re putting out, please feel free to like, comment and follow for more awesome urban explores. You can also do the same for the YouTube channel.

Shout to to Thomas, who was able to locate facts, not just lore, or what other explorers have found and documented, but actual facts – which I have not seen online to date. You rock!

Urbex: Abandoned 1867 Heritage Farmhouse Explore

Overview

Added to Centre Wellington heritage list map January 2021.

Located at the north corner of **th Line East and Sideroad **. Lot **, Concession ** of Pilkington Twp. There are two L4C2s, one on the east side of the Grand River and one on the west (E and W). CN Fergus Subdivision ran through the lot along the northeast end until 1987. The CN Fergus Subdivision used to be the Wellington, Grey and Bruce (WG&B) Railway built in 1870. (redacted to protect location).

Click link here to watch the YouTube video of this explore.

There are 6 houses/properties on Lot * today (including abandoned), 5 out of 6 front onto Sideroad *. One of them is built in the former rail ROW.

It appears to have been abandoned for quite some time. Unable to identify an exact date – we were able to locate a student agenda belonging to a female who attended St. Anne’s School in Kitchener from the year 2000. I find it unlikely that this was someone who resided in the house it’s difficulty to understand why someone would attend an elementary school so far away from where they live (approx. 40 kms away, when there were schools way close than that).

This research was done after we explored the property, we came upon it out of happenstance, on our way to another property.

We could tell from being there that the log house was old – the logs appeared to be handcrafted cut not milled, I could tell by what appeared to be uneven little hatchet markings on the exterior logs (inside the house where the later applied drywall had been pulled down). You can also see in the one photo above, where as the years progressed, they tried to “modernize” the house by adding siding.

The earliest information available online about the property was the 1867 survey.

1867 Survey:

In 1867 L4C2 had:

  • David Black (freeholder)
  • John Everett (freeholder)
  • John Gale (freeholder)
  • David Milne (freeholder)
  • George Milne (householder)
  • John Swan (freeholder)

The ages of the outbuildings aren’t documented that I could easily access.

There was barn – the concrete slab to one of the entries says Weber IPPE. If anyone in the #urbex or #blogging community knows who or what Weber IPPPE (see photo below) is, please comment below. I wasn’t able to find anything.

There were also 2 what I would consider storage/drive sheds.

A bit About the Milne Family:

A History of Elora from 1906-7 says that David Milne and his wife Ann Scott came from Auchinblae, Fordoun, Kincardineshire, Scotland and settled in Pilkington in 1844. Their daughter, also Ann, married David Black, who shows up in 1867 as a freeholder — they likely subdivided the original farm so that David and Ann could have their own homestead. It seems likely that the log cabin is the original home or at least an early build, and was the corner lot that is fully cleared rather than the wooded “back acres” to the east. (link) It’s possible that the Sideroad 4 fronted properties were the subdivisions, or perhaps the reverse, though the Elora history seems to establish a Milne-Holman continuity.

Land registry information from the 1870’s shows more and more land going to David Black, likely the larger part of the lot (Geo. Keith below) ended up being larger.

Alex Holman first appears in land documents in 1876? but as the grantor, not the grantee, to David Milne — perhaps something complicated was going on. Alex Holman seems to have acquired all the 1906 land by 1896.

A bit About the Holman family:

A 1906 map shows 3 sets of names:

Full Title: Nichol and Pilkington Townships, Ennotville Village, Gluaysville, Alma
Full Atlas Title: Wellington County 1906

Alex Holman living where the cabin is now.

George Keith, living along Sideroad *

Misses Mary & Susan Swan, living at the corner of 2nd Line and Sideroad * on the other side of the WG&B tracks.

Holman genealogy shows that there was an Alex HOLMAN born in Dundas circa 1831. Alex HOLMAN’s wife Julia was born in Pilkington. Alex HOLMAN died in Pilkington and is buried at Elora. At time of death, he farmed at Lot * Concession 2 Pilkington Twp — that location. There is another Alex HOLMAN (his son) whose brother was born in the 1860s, who died not long after (1920s) in Traverse City Michigan. The Holmans seem to have moved to Michigan.

Alexander HOLMAN married his wife Julia in 1876 and by this point is listed as a widower and yeoman aged 44. (link) In 1887 his son John J. HOLMAN (28, carpenter) married Mary Agnes DRISCOLL. His mother is listed as Catherine NORTON, likely Alexander HOLMAN’s first wife. (link)

House Explore

The house itself was eclectic — upon entry you have the option to go in 1 of 3 directions – left, right and straight ahead down to the cellar. 

The entries to the living room and kitchen, respectively, have a bit of a Chainsaw Massacre vibe with the cold storage freezer strip curtains.  Who would put that in a house? I’m assuming the attempt was to keep the cold air out? 

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The house shows it’s many years of inhabitation.  Much graffiti covers the walls, someone in a vain attempt to hide the crudeness of some of the black graffiti attempted to cover it with red spray paint – no success.    

Attempts to “modernize” don’t fit with the cabin – very low ceilings which I’m sure would have been nice wood back in its original days.  Vinyl flooring, which I am sure back in the day would have been nice wood as well.  

The house has 3 upper bedrooms, small.  80’s-90’s wallpaper with equal flooring choices up there – with some colourful doors and frames. 

Later Ownership:

After Alexander Holman died, it seems the property went to Robert SWAN (descendant of John Swan?) and Edward HALL in the 1920s-30s. The Bird family also appears around this time.

The Wright family first appears in the 1950s.

1983: Slater deeded to Blair

1992: CN Rail to Twp of Pilkington (likely the rail corridor being sold)

1992: Blair to Poljanski

1992: Poljanski to National Trust (mortgage?)

1994: 266312: Poljanski to Wright

1994: Wright to National Trust (mortgage?)

1997: National Trust Company to Toronto-Dominion Bank

I’m unable find anything sooner than 1997.

That’s about all I was able to locate online about this property. I don’t know the exact details of the heritage designation, what I do know is that it would be a shame to lose another local farmstead.

Let me know what you thought of this explore – be sure to check out the YouTube version of the explore -> I’ve posted it again here for your ease of reference.

Urbex: Northern Ontario Abandoned Hotel Explore!

The Lookout Inn is situated just south of North Bay, in Callander, Ontario. It used to be a hotel with a dining area and patio overlooking Lake Nipissing. The two buildings became a popular destination for vandals over the next decade.

The well known and unique resort in Callander had officially re-opened its doors to the public in 2017. They repaired one of the buildings and opened Terrace Suites Resort. There’s a golf course on the property which sits between the old and new buildings. 

“The old Lookout Inn, we are going to have some engineering people come in and look at it to see if it’s restorable. If not we would have to demolish and decide whether we want to do anymore building on the property,” said 1 of the owners John Jameson in 2016.  

From the current state of the building and from something I saw posted online, it doesn’t look as if the current owners will be able to utilize the old hotel in the renovations of the current suites. After it closed in the 1990’s, the property has become derelict – the owner has said it will have to be torn down, but they are mulling future development plans for the site.

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The hotel is pretty emptied and gutted, no exterior windows exist, however the glassless windows still overlook some of the most gorgeous panoramic views of the Lake Nippissing lookout. 

Some pretty cool graffiti.  The one part where the room is filled with water, it’s damp – nature is slowly taking over – moss covers the floor and old tubs.  

While there isn’t much to see in this abandoned hotel, it was still very cool to have been – sometimes it’s still better to have been late than to not have been at all – and if they’re going to be tearing it down in the next little while, I’m glad that I was able to urbex it prior to.

What’s the best place you’ve urbexed? Any hints or tips on the Ontario area? Comment below.

YES, I Washed my UGGS in the Washing Machine!

Who doesn’t LOVE a good pair of UGGs (or UGG look alikes)? I’m on my third pair — this pair is an UGG Classic Short II – super comfy, I can’t imagine my life without a pair of UGGs in them! And, let’s be real, UGGs aren’t on the cheap side either, with a price point averaging about $195 CDN + tax. I’ve had this pair for about 4 years and to be honest, at this point they owe me nothing, they have been perfectly good to me. However, as I have with my tall classics and my grey knits, I’ve been hard on them, and haven’t maintained them, I didn’t spray them, and never cleaned them after they got wet. This pair is on its way to the same unfortunate fate (the bin) unless I can salvage them somehow.

The biggest question to anyone who owns a pair of UGGs is … can I put them in the washing machine? The answer straight from the UGGSs mouth and anyone else in the shoe industry is an unequivocal NO! You cannot clean your UGGs in the washing machine. Authentic UGGs are made with suede which can easily be damaged if put in a washer. 

See, I take the word “can” in “can easily be damaged if you put them in a washer” as more of challenge – it can ooooorrrrr it cannot. And, since my poor beaten down UGGs are on the way to the bin if I can’t save them, the least I can do is try to bring them back to life and save my pocket book a couple hundred dollars.  

Suede is leather that has been chemically or physically abraded to produce a napped finish. Suede leather has more of a decorative finish than other types of leather. It’s a more delicate version of leather.

Knowing that, I’m still going to take the chance and throw them in the washing machine. I’ll let the chips fall where they may. At this point I’m not sure if the ending to this is going to be a success story about saving a pair of sad, old UGGs or the story of how I tried to save a pair of UGGs and ended up destroying them in the process.

Ok, so here are my UGGs …. watermarked, dirty and there’s a hole on the tip of the right toe … the poor things have seen better days … let’s see if we can save them and get a bit more life out of them …

  1. I tossed them in my front load washer on the delicate cycle (cold water wash and a cold water spin). I added 1 tab Kirkland detergent (I didn’t have any softer detergent such as a baby detergent). I also thought that putting my UGGs in with my hiking clothes (I don’t wear my UGGs for hiking, I had just got in from a hike and was washing my clothes) they wouldn’t bounce around the washer as much resulting in saving them from possible damage and precluding the hole in the tip of the toe from growing.

2) Once that cycle had run, I re-ran the washer on spin and drain 1 more time, as the load was still pretty soaked (because it was on delicate) and heavy.

3) So here are my UGGs fresh out of the washer … they don’t look ruined. They look clean – better than they have in a long while – but they’re wet – lets see what they look like when they’re dry.

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I added Norwex cloths in them to absorb the some of the wetness and to help them keep their shape as they dried. I let them dry for about 18 hours.

4) Once they were dry, I then used my Horsehair Shoe Shine Brush and Crepe Suede Shoe Brush (items 1 and 3 below – this is the kit I own, purchased from Amazon) gently across the suede to restore its nappy texture. Once that was done, I took a lint roller and rolled it over my boots to pick up the extra suede from the de-napping.

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5) To fix the hole in the toe tip, I decided to use what I had on hand, and that was Adhaero Super Glue. My only goal was to seal the hole to prevent snow from entering and to keep it from growing. This fix was utilitarian not cosmetic.

6) The fluffy material inside UGGs is wool. The fleece had eventually worn down and became matted due to wear. I used my dog’s brush to unmat my UGG insoles – it worked – they’re fluffy and soft again (I lint rolled the inside too!).

7) The next thing I did was use some Rain and Stain Protector, I applied 2 coats. Applied the 1st coat, waited an hour and reapplied.

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So, all in all, I feel good about giving my UGGs a new lease on life. Other than the standard aged crease marks and minor repair to the toe hole, they’re definitely still in good shape and washing them in the washing machine did not ruin them.

I can certainly appreciate that you wouldn’t want to do this regularly, but if it’s do or toss — I’ll opt for ‘do’ any day of the week. This revamp of my UGGs cost me $0.00 – it cost me a bit of time and a bit of elbow grease and saved me abt $220 on a new pair (for now).

After/Before – Amazing Transformation

Has anyone else washed their UGGs in the washing machine? Comment below.

Urbex: Exploring 3 Abandoned Farm Houses in 1 DAY!

Another awesome #urbex today – I was able to find not 1, not 2 but 3 abandoned farm houses to explore. I actually located 6-7 in a little cluster in Milton/Oakville – but am only going to post about these 3 today.

IF YOUR INTERESTED IN SEEING THE VIDEO VERSION OF THIS POST – CLICK HERE!

On a Cultural Heritage Assessment Report I found online, it indicated that a couple of these houses are listed as having been given heritage designation. However, to be honest, nothing about these houses seem to be aimed at bringing life back into them. I’m sure if I researched more – there are limitations to their protection and preservation. I fear that these beautiful nearly 120 year old homes will fall into such a state of disrepair that they will be too far gone for preservation.

As usual, I do not give out the exact location of the homes I explore, this post will be no different.

Property #1

Not a heritage home by any stretch. I would classify this home as being in the Hamilton (Flamborough) area. It has been built in phases, with the middle part being the main portions of the home being the first 2 on the left, the addition to the far right, seems to have been a bedroom – the exterior walls and doors were still very evident.

The house has been visited many a time, looks like it has been squatted in a few times as well. The house has open access (I believe in not committing not committing a B&E when I urbex lol). There are a few interesting finds in this home, which appears to have been abandoned in/or about 2007 based on the last height measurements on the kitchen/living room door frame (not confirmed). Some cool finds … interesting wallpaper on the walls, a Sovereign piano – Toronto – made exclusively for J. Faskin McDonald, Hamilton, Ont. I only found 1 article containing Mr. J. Faskin McDonald., it was in the Music Trades, Volume 58, he was part of “Hamilton’s Music Men”, and a really nice antique dresser – actually I had this exact dresser back in the day …. oh and the oddest thing I found was a dated pair of men’s dress shoes and Christian Dior men’s dress shirt …

Property #2

This property is an early twentieth century (c.1905), two-and a-half storey brick house that exhibits Queen Anne elements such as a high, wide and asymmetrical form, a steep pitch with multiple rooflines that are both hip and gable. Decorative scalloped shingling and a semi-circle window are present on the north elevation gable. Plain lintels are located above the windows and a plain cornice encircles the roofline. A wrap around verandah wrap is located on the north and west elevation. An exterior brick chimney is located on the east and south elevation. The barn complex which was located to the north of the house was demolished in 2015. Two gable roofed outbuildings remain to the north and south of the structure – I only saw one and it was filled with junk.

The property is formerly the Robert Emery Hall farmstead and milk house, and was known as Auburn Farm. The property is listed on the town’s Heritage List – approved November 2016 as a heritage landscape comprising of a farmhouse and barns in a traditional farmstead setting. 

Not sure how this house fits into the “heritage” perspective. The house is ransacked and appears to have been vacant since about 2007 – that’s the last calendar in the house – December 2007. The house with a 70’s/80’s feel kitchen is heavily vandalized. The cool thing about this home is that there is a servant’s quarters in the rear with a rear staircase leading from the quarters to the kitchen, bypassing the main bedrooms.

Property #3

The house itself has been abandoned and boarded up. Much of the original landscaping surrounding the property has been removed.

There was entry access at one point, but appears to have been recently re-boarded – we were unable to enter the house, and that’s ok. The standing barn was wide open, we were able to investigate there. The property is listed on the Heritage List as of November 2016 as a heritage landscape comprising of a farmhouse and barns in a traditional farmstead setting.

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Stay tuned! More urbexing coming soon …. If you’re an urbexer out there – comment below.

Urbex: Exploring a Well Known Meat Processing Plant!

This weekend I did another awesome urban explore at an old abandoned factory in town.  I’m not gonna share the exact location. You may think it’s ridiculous to not share the location of a place you’ve explored. It is an abandoned building after all, what’s the big deal?  The reason I don’t share location information with just anyone is that urban explorers aren’t the only ones that will see and visit that place. If you openly advertise the address of an abandoned building, you’re inviting just about anyone on the internet to go visit. The only things I like to take are photos.  

The plant on the day of closing

This urbex had a personal feel to it for me. Not only is it a well known and loved staple in the core of my hometown, the very first house I ever bought in 1999 was right across the street from the plant (like 200m away). The smell of BBQ would waft over our yard every afternoon for the 2 years we lived there, sometimes if the air wasn’t moving – it sat thick and heavy.

Living so close to a factory can have its moments – I recall being awaken in the middle of the night by a police officer knocking at the door, asking us to evacuate as there was a leak at the plant. I assumed it was an ammonia leak from one of the AC or refrigeration units. Hundreds of workers on the night shift were also evacuated while firefighters contained the leak. We returned home the next morning, opting to not rewake the kids from their sleeps at nana’s.

You can watch the YouTube video of this urbex here. This well known Canadian founded the company in 1886 after injuring his hand on the job at the Dominion Button Works factory. Unable to work, he and his wife began making sausages which they sold door-to-door, which they kept up after he was able to return to work. The recipe was based on one his mother used for pork sausage. He later expanded (in 1924) operation into a butchering service and retail store next to his home. Built in the 1890’s, it was constructed to look like a home in case the business failed – the location was then on the outskirts of the town which was then called Berlin. The company grew and survived the Great Depression, becoming one of the largest meat producers in Canada. It specialized in wieners, luncheon meat, sausages, pepperettes and other forms of specialty and delicatessen meats for generations, and was the first company in Canada to introduce vacuum packaging.

The landmark plant’s 125 years of history came to an end in February 2015 as the very last pack of bologna rolled off the line and was celebrated by teary-eyed employees …. the last 97 of those years were at the mammoth, oft-expanded facility … only 3.5 years after Maple Leaf Foods announced it was closing the aging factory, cutting 1,200 jobs. Workers in hard hats and blue coveralls crowded around the final production run to watch their plant fade into history. The plant was simply too inefficient, too landlocked and too old to modernize.

The property southwest of the downtown core sat vacant for 3 years before it was announced that Auburn Developments purchased it.  The development firm plans to transform the 27.6 acres into a new mixed use neighbourhood.  The building itself went through a 6-month decommissioning process.

They’ve demolished the waste water treatment facility, the powerhouse, and the entire processing plant, leaving the warehouse and office for mixed used commercial offices/retail space. Finalized concepts offer a range of housing forms and densities on the site along with some office, commercial space and parks and green space.  The redevelopment will add 2,800 homes and 11 buildings to the site. Construction of The Metz development is expected to start this June and continue for the next 10 years. The plant’s history to the city and its legacy will live on in the names of some of the streets in the new development.

More urbex coming your way soon!!

What are some of your fave spots to explore? Comment below!

Urbex: Abandoned Leather Tannery Explore!!

On the coldest day registered this year, my friend Thomas and I decided to stay local for our #urbex and decided to explore an abandoned factory in town.  It has been abandoned for decades and I drive by it quite regularly,  for some reason it never occurred to me to explore it …. so 2 weekends ago, Thomas and I did just that and it was definitely worth it, even in the sub zero temperatures.  I could have stayed and explored longer than the 1.5 hours we were there – but in all honesty – I couldn’t feel my hands any longer – it was that cold out!

When I first arrived upon it, I actually didn’t know the history of the building or what it was used for, Thomas did and I had asked him to not share, so I could just explore with no preconceived notions …. turns out I was exploring the old Robson Lang Leather Tannery — or at least an abandoned storage facility for it — it appears as if the original tannery part has already been demolished.  

I’ll give you the history of the building as I know it to be — you can also check out my YouTube video for the full explore by clicking the link.

In 1963, Robson Leather (in Oshawa, Ontario) combined forces with Kitchener, Ontario based James Lang Leather Co. Ltd.   In the same year, Robson Leather Company also purchased tanneries in London and Barrie as well as one in Cobourg. Under the new business name of Robson-Lang Leathers Limited it became part of Canada’s largest tanning company.

The company stayed in business only 14 more years before its Oshawa doors were closed forever due to many strikes and a decline in business.   The entire Robson-Lang industry closed in 1986. 

The Kitchener building stands open and is easily accessible – despite this, I will not be divulging its exact location.  It’s pretty obvious that many other people have used and abused this place. A definite squat and play-area for locals. In fact, there were other “non-urbexers” in the property while we were there.  No idea why they were there, and I wasn’t about to ask them (lol).

I was able to locate a few articles on the site:

Barrie deaths investigated:
The Ontario Ministry of Labour is investigating reports of deaths and illness said to be linked to a company that operated tanneries in Barrie, Oshawa, Kitchener, and Coburg. The Simcoe County Injured Workers Association says that it has received reports of appalling working conditions at the plants, and the dumping of hazardous chemicals into city sewers and creeks. The company, Robson Lange Leather Inc. closed in 1986. Dr. Jim Stopps, chief of health studies services for the Ministry of Labour, said that 44 reports of death and illness are being investigated.

In 2016 there as a fire at the location:

A fire official at that time believed someone set fire to the abandoned warehouse. “It’s likely vandalism,” Blake Moggy, assistant platoon chief with the Kitchener Fire Department, said. “Somebody lit it on fire.” Click here for the link to that newspaper article.

Photo: Courtesy of the Waterloo Region Record
Wednesday, August 31, 2016

There was apparently an earlier fire at the site in 2013 … apparently a camper and boat parked outside the building caught fire in September 2013, also under suspicious circumstances. The exact cause of the 2013 fire was not determined.

Super cool explore … loved every minute of this one … stay tuned, next I’m hoping to explore a large, well- known factory that has closed its doors in the last few years shortly.

Rh- Alien Blood,Royal Blue Bloods and My Linage to King John I

Before getting into the meat of this post, it’s important to understand blood typing. Interestingly, 85% of the world’s population are Rh+ and only 15% are Rh-. Most of us don’t know our blood type (if you don’t, I strongly encourage you to find out, it’s so important, especially if you require a blood transfusion). I’ve known for many years, as it affected my pregnancies, I’m O-, I’ll explain why this is important a few paragraphs down.  

In 1937, Karl Landsteiner and Alexander Weiner discovered the Rh factor. Rh or rhesus protein is named for the rhesus monkey, which also carries the gene, and is a protein that lives on the surface of red blood cells. Their discovery thus changed the blood types from the four we knew A, B, AB, and O, to the eight we know today. They discovered the Rh protein while researching solutions for a medical mystery that killed dozens of babies each day. Their discovery led to the development of the RhoGAM® injection in 1968, which is used to prevent an immune response in mothers who are Rh-. If a pregnant woman who is Rh- does not receive RhoGAM, and is carrying an Rh-positive baby (which I was), she risks the health of future pregnancies because she has been exposed to the positive blood from her current unborn baby.  When a woman receives the RhoGAM shot, it protects her immune system from the exposure to the current baby’s Rh+ blood. If she does not receive the injection, her body will develop antibodies that could attack the positive red blood cells of babies in subsequent pregnancies.

Many months ago, I saw some posts come across my timeline proposing a theory that people with Rh- blood possess “alien DNA” since studies found that Rh- blood types do not have the key evolutionary gene from rhesus monkeys that most other humans do. This begs the question: if we evolved from monkeys, why would some people not have the rhesus monkey gene?

Looking back about 35,000 years, scientists believe that the blood type is linked to specific tribes/groups in France and northern Spain, mainly the Basque Region of France, who have the greatest incidents of this blood type at 35%.

The other day I was watching Kendall Rae’s YouTube channel (I’m addicted) and in came an episode about Rh Negative Blood Being Alien. She and her boyfriend, Josh, explained that most of the US Presidents possess Rh- blood and that it’s also a characteristic of the British Royal Family.  What’s interesting here is that all are distant cousins can be traced back a common ancestor, same for the US Presidents (except for one) – they’re all related to King John I.  As soon as I heard the name Plantagenet, I stopped the video and went back to my family tree on ancestry.ca. I had heard that name before, and then I found it in my relation to Louis VIII of France, click here to read that blog, I had just written a blog about him not too long ago.

Back in 2012 a 12 year old girl named BridgeAnne d’Avignon discovered that all U.S. presidents but for Martin van Buren are blood related. They are descendants of the same English king, John Lackland Plantagenet who is perhaps best known as Robin Hood’s enemy, and was the King who signed the Magna Carta in 1215.  Now if you’re not familiar with the Plantagenet’s, they are a dynasty that ruled England from 1154 to 1485. The dynasty was founded by Geoffrey Plantagenet (d: 1151), Count of Anjou. Approximately 190 seventeenth-century North American colonists were from the Plantagenet dynasty.  

I find this all wildly fascinating!  First the whole theory on Rh- blood, although far fetched, is quite intriguing. Then the fact that all, except for 1 US President is a descendent of King John I.  More so the whole fascination that truly boggles my mind is that I am Rh- and that I also have lineage going back to King John I (he’s my 25th great-grand uncle), which means in some way, shape or form, I’m related to the majority of the US Presidents (I’d already discovered that I am the 6th cousin 5x removed of President Abraham Lincoln).

What I find even more astounding is the connection between the Rh- factor and the lineage to this royal line (which to some degree, even if by lineage seems to be still in power).  Scientists cannot determine the root of the Rh- blood type, citing a random genetic mutation (which is possible). I do query (even in the Gaia scope) if some of humanity (myself included) are the product of an ancient and advanced alien civilization. I mean, if the theory of evolution is valid in that each and every one of us is descended from ancient primates, shouldn’t we all be Rh+?

Some speculation surrounding alien DNA is that the Sumerians believed in an ancient extra terrestrial race, the Anunnaki, who genetically engineered humans who were here at that time.  Over 6,000 years ago, the world’s first civilization was recording stories of strange celestial Gods whom they believed came from the heavens to create mankind. 

The Sumerians were highly intelligent, amongst other things, they essentially “invented” time by dividing day and night into 12-hour periods, hours into 60 minutes, and minutes into 60 seconds. If they were responsible for many of the most important innovations, inventions, and concepts of present day, why would they imagine or invent stories surrounding the Anunnaki?

Most historians leave this to mythology, the same way they do the Greek Gods. Some researchers believe the Anunnaki may have been actual beings. So it’s possible that Rh- people are direct relatives of the Anunnaki.

Do these Royals and the rest of us Rh- blood possess alien blood? Genetic mutation or alien connection?

Hmmmm ….

On Genealogy: MY ROYAL CONNECTION to King Louis VIII of France

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I always thought I was special, a Princess you might say, and now I have a little weight behind me to back it up, my 24th great grand-father was King Louis VIII of France. And this discovery, has just set my whole genealogical dig in a whole new wild direction; an astronomical connection all the way back the the Plantagenets (The House of the Plantagenets), the royal dynasty that ruled England for over 300 years.

I came across this discovery as I followed a line on my father’s, paternal side down the Rancourts (see below for exact linage), I was following back my great gramma Angelina Mullen’s line – I don’t even recall how I ended up at Louis VIII, bypassing all of the previous royals.

In all honesty, I knew very little about my 24x GGF. From what I’ve researched Louis VIII the Lion (aka Louis VIII le Lion) (5 September 1187 – 8 November 1226) was King of France from 1223 to 1226 (only a short 3 years). Louis VIII was born in Paris, the son of King Philip II of France and Isabelle of Hainaut, from whom he inherited the County of Artois at Palais Royal, Paris, France.

As I mentioned above, Louis VIII was the son and heir to the great King Philip II, a man who was able to, with the help of his frail yet competent son, to substantially extend royal influence within France.  

In summer 1195, a marriage between Louis and Eleanor of Brittany, niece of Richard I of England, was suggested for an alliance between Philip II and Richard, but it failed. It is said that the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI opposed the marriage, and that its failure was a sign that Richard would name his brother John as heir to the English throne instead of Eleanor’s younger brother Arthur of Brittany, whom Richard had designated earlier as heir presumptive.

On 23 May 1200, at the age of 12, Louis was married to Blanche of Castile, daughter of King Alfonso VIII of Castile and Eleanor of England, the sister of King Richard I and King John I of England. The marriage could only be concluded after prolonged negotiations between King Philip II of France and Blanche’s uncle John.

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Born to wealth, Blanche of Castile (1188-1252) took the reins of leadership early in life as the wife of Louis VIII and later as co-regent during her son, Louis IX’s, minority — Blanche proved to be a good, strong willed leader, keenly adept at dealing with her male counterparts.

Blanche was born on March 4, 1188 in Palencia, Castile, an area that is now part of central and northern Spain. She was the daughter of King Alphonso VIII of Castile and Princess Eleanor Plantagenet of England. Her grandfather was Henry II of England, her grandmother was Eleanor of Aquitaine and her uncle was John I of England. This rich lineage prepared her well for a place on the throne of France.

Louis VIII succeeded his father on 14 July 1223; his coronation took place on 6 August of the same year in the cathedral at Reims.

Meanwhile in 1215, King John of England was forced to sign the Magna Carta stating that the King was not above the law of the land and protecting the rights of the people. Today, the Magna Carta is considered one of the most important documents in the history of democracy. After King John had been forced to sign the Magna Carta, the nobility was still mistrustful of their King, thinking he would appeal to Pope Innocent III for aid in regaining what he had lost. Having failed to control John, the barons took an unprecedented step and decided to overthrow him. The English barons rebelled against the unpopular King John in the First Barons’ War. England needed a King, but who?

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The barons needed a strong, experienced man and of royal blood; they looked across the English channel and found one in Louis VIII.  He was after all the son of the French King Philip Augustus (II), AND he was also a direct descendant of William the Conqueror (OMG, another exciting find and one that I need to research!) and married to King John’s niece, both of which gave him a passable blood claim to the English throne. But more than this, he had the resources to mount a campaign, the men to run it and the skills to win it. He was renowned as a brilliant warrior and was known to be honest, just, moral and a man of his word – all the things that John wasn’t.

On 14 June 1216, Louis captured Winchester and soon controlled over half of the English kingdom. But just when it seemed that England was his, King John’s death in October 1216 of dysentery, caused many of the rebellious barons to desert Louis in favour of John’s nine-year-old son, Henry III.

With the Earl of Pembroke acting as regent, a call for the English “to defend our land” against the French led to a reversal of fortunes on the battlefield. After his army was beaten at the Battle of Lincoln on 20 May 1217 and his naval forces were defeated at the Battle of Sandwich on 24 August 1217, Louis was forced to make peace on English terms. In 1216 and 1217, Prince Louis also tried to conquer Dover Castle, but without success. The principal provisions of the Treaty of Lambeth were an amnesty for English rebels, a pledge from Louis not to attack England again, and 10,000 marks to be given to Louis. In return for this payment, Louis agreed he had never been the legitimate king of England.

He returned to France, where he dedicated a majority of the rest of his life to crusading for the Catholic cause. Teaming with the Englishman Simon de Montfort, Louis battled against Count Raymond VI of Toulouse, and then his son, Raymond VII, and their religious sect, the Cathars. After nearly ten years of sporadic battles, and huge victories and losses on both sides, Louis arose victorious and extended royal power further into southern France. His biggest accomplishment during his short reign was the conquest of the county of Poitou, which had long been under English control. One could not have expected more as a general and leader than what was received by Prince, and then King, Louis. 

While returning to Paris, King Louis VIII became ill with dysentry and died on 8 November 1226 at Château de Montpensier in Auvergne.

The Saint Denis Basilica, just to the north of Paris, houses the tomb of Louis VIII. His son, Louis IX (1226–70), succeeded him on the throne. Queen Blanche concluded the crusade in the south in 1229.

My Lineage:

LOUIS VIII – KING OF FRANCE 1187-1226

24th great-grandfather

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Robert I (Count of Artois)

Son of LOUIS VIII – KING OF FRANCE

(Robert I 25 September 1216 – 8 February 1250, called the Good, was the first Count of Artois, a Prince of France, and the fifth (and second surviving) son of Louis VIII, King of France and Blanche of Castile. On 14 June 1237 Robert married Matilda, daughter of Henry II of Brabant and Marie of Hohenstaufen. They had two children: Blanche (1248–1302)[ Robert II (1250–1302), who succeeded to Artois).

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Robert II (Count of Artois)

Son of Robert I de France (Count of Artois)

(Robert II September 1250 – 11 July 1302, was the Count of Artois, the posthumous son and heir of Robert I and Matilda of Brabant. He was a nephew of Louis IX of France. He died at the Battle of the Golden Spurs.

In 1262 in Paris Robert married Amicie de Courtenay (1250–1275), daughter of Pierre de Courtenay, Seigneur de Conches, a great-grandson of Louis VI, and Perronelle de Joigny. They had three children:Mahaut (1268–1329), Philip (1269–1298), Robert (born 1271, died young).

After Amicie’s death, Robert married twice more: first, in 1277, to Agnes of Dampierre (1237–1288), heiress of Bourbon, and then, on 18 October 1298 to Margaret (died 1342),daughter of John II, Count of Hainaut. After Robert’s death, his daughter Mahaut inherited Artois, but his grandson Robert III unsuccessfully tried to claim it.

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Pilippe I, (Count of Artois)

Son of Robert II (Count of Artois)

(Philip of Artois 1269 – 11 September 1298 was the son of Robert II of ArtoisCount of Artois, and Amicie de Courtenay.  He was the Lord of ConchesNonancourt, and Domfront. He married Blanche of Brittany, daughter of John II, Duke of Brittany, and had the following children:Margaret (1285–1311), who married in 1301 Louis, Count of Évreux, Robert III of Artois (1287–1342), Isabelle (1288–1344), a nun at Poissy, Joan of Artois (1289 – aft. 1350), married Gaston ICount of Foix, in Senlis in 1301, Othon (died 2 November 1291), Marie of Artois (1291 – 22 January 1365, Wijnendaele), Lady of Merode, married in 1309 in Paris to John I, Marquis of Namur, Catherine (1296–1368, Normandy), married John II of Ponthieu, Count of Aumale.

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Marie of Artois

Daughter of Pilippe I, Count of Artois

(Marie of Artois – born in 1291, was the fourth daughter of Philip of Artois and Blanche of Brittany. John’s second wife was Marie of Artois (later to become Lady of Merode). They were married in Paris on 6 March 1310, confirmed Poissy, January 1313. John granted her as dower the castle of Wijnendale in Flanders, ratified by the Count of Flanders (his half-brother, Robert III) in 1313.

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Marie of Namur
Gräfin von Vianden
Dame de Pierrepont
1322 –
before 29 October 1357
Married firstly, in 1335/36, to Henry II, Graf of Vianden, son of Philip II, Graf of Vianden and his first wife Lucia von der Neuerburg. Her first husband was murdered at Famagusta in September 1337.

Married secondly (1340, dispensation 9 September 1342) to her father’s second cousin, Theobald of Bar, Seigneur de Pierrepont, son of Erard of Bar, Seigneur de Pierrepont et d’Ancerville (himself son of Theobald II of Bar), and his wife Isabelle of Lorraine (daughter of Theobald II, Duke of Lorraine).

Marie gave birth to two daughters, Yolande and Elisabeth. When Theobald, died (between 2 August 1353 and 6 July 1354) he had no legitimate male heir, thus his daughter Elisabeth became the heiress of Bar-Pierrepont.

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Yolande de Bar

Daughter of Marie of Namur

(Yolande de Bar (b. c. 1343 – d. c. 1410)  married before 1360 with Eudes VII, Sire de Grancey, Louvois, Pierrepont. Yolande de Bar, dame de Pierrepont, and Eudes VII de Grancey, chevalier, councilor and chamberlain of the king of France, probably married between 1350 and 1355

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Jeanne de Grancey -1422

Daughter of Yolande de Bar

(Jeanne de Grancey, dame of Louvois and of Pierrepont, and Jean II de Châteauvillain,
seigneur of Thil, Châteauvillain, and Marigny, married about 1372

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Marie (Dame de Louvais) de Chateauvillain 1380-1423

Daughter of Jeanne de Grancey

( Marie de Châteauvillain, dame of Louvois, and Amé de Sarrebruche, seigneur of Commercy and of Venisy, married 27 September 1396)

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Robert I de Sarrebruche

Son of Marie (Dame de Louvais) de Chateauvillain

(Robert I de Sarrebruche, lord of Commercy, and Jeanne, countess of Roucy and of Braine. Jeanne de Saarbrücken (born de PIERREPONT) (she is a descendant of Henry III, king of England), married around 1414-1417 at Braine)

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Jeanne de Sarrebruche 1436-1492

(Jeanne de Sarrebruche and Christophe de Barbançon, seigneur of Canny-sur-Matz,
married about 1463)

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Francois Seigneur De Barbancon De La Ferte

Son of Jeanne de Sarrebruche

(François de Barbançon, seigneur of La Ferté, and Françoise de Villers, dame of Montgobert, probably married between 1490 and before 26 May 1507 (and not on 20 October 1511 as reported in several publications)

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Maguerite (Dame de Montgobert) de Barbancon 1490-

Daughter of Francois Seigneur De Barbancon De La Ferte

(Marguerite de Barbançon, dame of Montgobert, and Robert de Joyeuse, count of Grandpré, married 15 July 1519)

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Francois De Joyeuse 1507-1597

Son of Maguerite (Dame de Montgobert) de Barbancon

(François de Joyeuse, seigneur of Champigneulle, and Nicole Françoise de Beauvais,
probably married between 1530 and 1540)

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Jean (seigneur de Champigneulle) De Joyeuse 1540-

Son of Francois De Joyeuse

(Jean de Joyeuse, seigneur of Champigneulle, and Nicole des Ancherins, dame of Cierges and Bantheville in part, heiress of Sivry, marriage contract 31 December 1561, married January 1563)

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Louise De Joyeuse 1562-1616

Daughter of Jean (seigneur de Champigneulle) De Joyeuse

(Louise de Joyeuse, dame of Sivry, and Charles de Longeuval, sieur of Ormes, seigneur of part of Sivry and of Walicourt, married about 1581)

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Antoinette De Longuevale 1581-1639

Daughter of Louise De Joyeuse

(Antoinette de Longueval and Guillaume Couvent, married before 1601, probably at or near Épieds). The Couvent’s were non-armigerous (i.e. did not bear heraldic arms, did not have a coat of arms)

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Anne Couvent 1601-1675

Daughter of Antoinette De Longuevale

(Anne Couvent and Philippe Amiot, married about 1625, probably at or near Épieds (Aisne) Picardy). The Amiot’s were non-armigerous (i.e. did not bear heraldic arms, did not have a coat of arms)

Anne Couvent came to New France from Picardy with her husband Philippe Amiot / Hameau and two sons, Jean and Mathieu, in 1636. A third child, Charles, was born in New France. In addition, her nephew, Toussaint Ledran, the son of Louis Ledran and Charlotte Couvent, also settled in New France. Many Canadians and Americans descend from one of the Couvent sisters and thus from royalty.

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Mathieu Amiot 1628-1688

Son of Anne Couvent

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Catherine Ursule Amiot 1664-1715

Daughter of Mathieu Amiot

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Marie-Françoise Duquet dit Desrochers 1699-1743

Daughter of Catherine Ursule Amiot

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Charles Alexandre Rancourt 1729-1774

Son of Marie-Françoise Duquet dit Desrochers

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Louis Rancourt 1807-1847

Son of Charles Alexandre Rancourt

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Olive Rancourt 1847-1895

Daughter of Louis Rancourt

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Bridget Angelina Mullen 1887-1976

Daughter of Olive Rancourt

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Benjamin George Richards 1916-1977

Son of Bridget Angelina Mullen

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Patrick James Richards 1954-2014

Son of Benjamin George Richards

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Tina Rose Richards

You are the daughter of Patrick James Richards

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So it seems my royal lineage stopped with the marriage of Antoinette de Longueval and Guillaume Couvent. She came from the family of Louise de Joyeuse, dame of Sivry, and Charles de Longeuval, sieur of Ormes, seigneur of part of Sivry and of Walicourt. Guillaume had no coat of arms. Why would have Antoinette marry outside of royalty, was it for love? The end of her familial dynasty? More research to be done …. I will be writing a whole different blog on Anne Couvent and her famous lineage – stay tuned!

Also interesting that I am related to Louis VIII in another way via my dad’s line via Olive Moore’s line as follows:

Louis VIII le Lion, roi de France is Patrick James Richards’ 25th great grandfather, therefore my 26x GGF through this line.

Patrick James Richards
 

Benjamin George Richards
his father

Ambrose Richards
his father

George Howard Richards
his father

Olive Moore
his mother

Roger Moore
her father

Dudley Moore, Sr.
his father

Jedediah Moore
his father

Jonathan Moore
his father

Sarah Moore
his mother

Sarah Pinney
her mother

Edward Griswold, of Killingworth
her father

George Griswold, of Kenilworth
his father

Roger Griswold
his father

William Griswold
his father

Roger Griswold
his father

Joan Griswold (Stockley)
his mother

Joane Stockley
her mother

Thomas Wells
her father

John Welles
his father

Thomas Welles
his father

Eleanor Alianore de Mowbray, Baroness Welles
his mother

John de Mowbray, 4th Baron of Mowbray
her father

Joan of Lancaster, Baroness de Mowbray
his mother

Henry of Lancaster
her father

Blanche of Artois
his mother

Robert I the Good, count of Artois
her father

Louis VIII le Lion, roi de France
his father

I also find it insanely interesting that my family lineage forms part of the world’s most renowned plays! To think that William Shakespeare’s play The Life and Death of King John, has my actual 24x and 25x great grand fathers.

I think it may be safe to say that The Life and Death of King John which dramatizes the reign of John, King of England, his son of Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine and father of Henry III of England

My Family Tree of Characters in King John are Blanche of Castile – John’s niece, King Philip II  King of France and Louis who is called Louis the Dauphin — ironically, I lived in Dauphin, Manitoba for 2 years.

Synopsis:

King John receives an ambassador from France who demands with a threat of war that he renounce his throne in favour of his nephew, Arthur, whom the French King Philip believes to be the rightful heir to the throne.

John adjudicates an inheritance dispute between Robert Faulconbridge and his older brother Philip the Bastard, during which it becomes apparent that Philip is the illegitimate son of King Richard I. Queen Eleanor, mother to both Richard and John, recognizes the family resemblance and suggests that he renounce his claim to the Faulconbridge land in exchange for a knighthood. John knights Philip the Bastard under the name Richard.

In France, King Philip and his forces besiege the English-ruled town of Angers, threatening attack unless its citizens support Arthur. Philip is supported by Austria, who many characters believe to have killed King Richard. The English contingent arrives; and then Eleanor trades insults with Constance, Arthur’s mother. Kings Philip and John stake their claims in front of Angers’ citizens, but to no avail: their representative says that they will support the rightful king, whoever that turns out to be.

The French and English armies clash, but no clear victor emerges. Each army dispatches a herald claiming victory, but Angers’ citizens continue to refuse to recognize either claimant because neither army has proven victorious.

The Bastard proposes that England and France unite to punish the rebellious citizens of Angers, at which point the citizens propose an alternative: Philip’s son, Louis the Dauphin, should marry John’s niece Blanche (a scheme that gives John a stronger claim to the throne) while Louis gains territory for France. Though a furious Constance accuses Philip of abandoning Arthur, Louis and Blanche are married.

Cardinal Pandolf arrives from Rome bearing a formal accusation that John has disobeyed the Pope and appointed an archbishop contrary to his desires. John refuses to recant, whereupon he is excommunicated. Pandolf pledges his support for Louis, though Philip is hesitant, having just established family ties with John. Pandolf brings him round by pointing out that his links to the church are older and firmer.

War breaks out; Austria is beheaded by the Bastard in revenge for his father’s death; and both Angers and Arthur are captured by the English. Eleanor is left in charge of English possessions in France, while the Bastard is sent to collect funds from English monasteries. John orders Hubert to kill Arthur. Pandolf suggests to Louis that he now has as strong a claim to the English throne as Arthur (and indeed John), and Louis agrees to invade England.

Hubert finds himself unable to kill Arthur. John’s nobles urge Arthur’s release. John agrees, but is wrong-footed[ by Hubert’s announcement that Arthur is dead. The nobles, believing he was murdered, defect to Louis’ side. Equally upsetting, and more heartbreaking to John, is the news of his mother’s death, along with that of Lady Constance. The Bastard reports that the monasteries are unhappy about John’s attempt to seize their gold. Hubert has a furious argument with John, during which he reveals that Arthur is still alive. John, delighted, sends him to report the news to the nobles.

Arthur dies jumping from a castle wall. (It is open to interpretation whether he deliberately kills himself or just makes a risky escape attempt.) The nobles believe he was murdered by John, and refuse to believe Hubert’s entreaties. John attempts to make a deal with Pandolf, swearing allegiance to the Pope in exchange for Pandolf’s negotiating with the French on his behalf. John orders the Bastard, one of his few remaining loyal subjects, to lead the English army against France.

While John’s former noblemen swear allegiance to Louis, Pandolf explains John’s scheme, but Louis refuses to be taken in by it. The Bastard arrives with the English army and threatens Louis, but to no avail. War breaks out with substantial losses on each side, including Louis’ reinforcements, who are drowned during the sea crossing. Many English nobles return to John’s side after a dying French nobleman, Melun, warns them that Louis plans to kill them after his victory.

John is poisoned by a disgruntled monk. His nobles gather around him as he dies. The Bastard plans the final assault on Louis’ forces, until he is told that Pandolf has arrived with a peace treaty. The English nobles swear allegiance to John’s son Prince Henry, and the Bastard reflects that this episode has taught that internal bickering could be as perilous to England’s fortunes as foreign invasion.

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My mind is blown!  Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to trace my heritage back to a King, more less a whole line of significantly historic Royals on both sides of the channel – the French and the English – my family is steeped in so much rich history. 

I cannot wait to get exploring more — King Phillip, King Louis XI and Blanche’s family, King Alphonso VIII of Castile and Princess Eleanor Plantagenet of England. Her grandfather was Henry II of England, her grandmother was Eleanor of Aquitaine and her uncle was John I of England.

(photo header: King John of England in battle with the Francs (left), Prince Louis VIII of France on the march (right). (British Library, Royal 16 G VI f. 385)

Saving Money is Great. Saving Lots of Money is Even Better.

While I was laying around a few weeks ago, I binged watched the TLC show Extreme Cheapskates. It’s an American reality tv series that profiles the lives of those who take frugality to an extreme.

Now, let’s all be real here and accept that a lot of it appears to be staged and scripted.  It may be real, and I’m offering my personal opinion.  However, there are definitely take aways … and I’m wondering how, if at all, we can incorporate some of these penny-pinching methods to our lives.  Now, I would never consider dumpster diving,  reusing/sharing dental floss with my partner, working out at a sports store with their equipment to avoid paying for a gym membership or feed my spouse cat food instead of tuna.

This comes on the heels of discussions I’ve had lately about retiring as early as I possibly can (aiming for Freedom 55). I mean do I really want to be working 5 days a week until the age of 65?  Hells no!   It also goes to the minimalistic lifestyle I’m going for and trying to be as eco-savy/friendly as I can.

Below are some of the ways that I try to be mindful and save on cash at my house:

BUY IN BULK:  Lots of money can be saved by bulk-buying items. It’s common to save more than 20% on the total cost of items if you opt for this alternative.  I stock up mainly on spices, meats, baking ingredients and loose leaf teas at Bulk Barn, considered to be Canada’s largest bulk foods retailer with stores located in every province.

RE-USE TEABAGS:  I didn’t used to re-use tea bags, I just tossed them.  Then I found out that you can typically reuse teabags up to 3 times before losing its flavour. So now, I keep the tea bag … when I’m finished with my peppermint tea, I simply rinse out the mug out, put the tea bag back in and put it in the freezer. That’s right! The freezer, solves two issues: 1) it keeps the bag from spoiling and 2) it cools down the piping hot water at my next pour.

FIND FREE ENTERTAINMENT:  Find cheap ways to have fun. Entertainment often ends up costing a lot of money. The average person spends about $1,800 a year on entertainment (not including eating out). Before I head out on any vacations or excursions, I always take the time to look online to look for FREE events in the area while I’m there. I actually do this while home as well, there’s always lots of FREE entertainment posted and it’s pocketbook friendly.

GROUPON: Groupon is an an e-commerce marketplace connecting millions of subscribers with local merchants by offering activities, travel, goods and services in more than 28 countries.  It’s a Web-savvy spin on the boring old coupon.  I have cashed in on tons of deals via Groupon and have saved hundreds of dollars by doing so — on things from dining out, concerts, eyelash extensions, wine tours etc.

SELL YOUR CLUTTER:  This is not so much saving money as it is making it. I don’t like junk and I don’t like clutter.  I am constantly decluttering, so why not make a few bucks doing it. Hold a garage sale or sell it on Facebook Marketplace, eBay, Kijiji or your local online selling site. It’s amazing what some people will buy.

COUPONS:  There’s no such thing as “extreme couponing” in Canada, not like there is in the U.S anyway, and do I ever wish there was!  I get nerded out just watching the money these people save!  I just watched an episode last night where a family paid something like $130 for $2800 worth of items!  OMG!  In the States some stores allow what they call “coupon stacking”. Another difference is that in the US some stores have special days when they will double or even triple your coupons. They also sometimes have a frequent shopper card. Although there aren’t insane ways to save $$ in Canada, there are still ways to save a few dollars.

  • Use coupon apps – I use personally use Foupon for fast food restaurants – you won’t miss any coupons, and they are always on your phone. Plus, when I select the gas section – it gives me the prices of all of the gas prices nearest to my location so I can find the cheapest price.
  • Price Match one store to another- bring your flyers and have the store match the best advertised price (keep distance in mind, if you’re traveling to the other end of town to save $3.00 it may not be worth it).
  • Join coupon trades and trains (there are some online as well) – this way your can get rid of coupons you would never use and gain ones that you really want.
  • Take advantage of Mail-in-Rebates. For the price of a stamp you will get the majority if not all your money back that you spent on an item. I just mailed one in for $5.00 off my winter tires. Hey! $5.00 is still $5.00.

CHECKOUT 51:  I have this app downloaded on my iPhone.  Pretty simple idea, Checkout 51 helps you save money on the brands you love.  Every Thursday morning, they update the site with a new list of offers. All you have to do is pick the ones you like, purchase them at any store, and upload a photo of your receipt through their mobile app or website. When your account reaches $20.00, they send you a cheque. Super Simple. I’ve got a $9.53 balance, on items I was purchasing anyway. Plus there are surveys and videos you can watch to earn extra free money!

** For example, I just capitalized on this last week. My favourite jar of Adam’s All Natural Peanut Butter was on sale for $2.99 (reg price $4.97). I checked the Checkout 51 app and they were offering $1.25 cash back. So my $4.97 jar of peanut butter is down to $2.99 and with the 1.25 cash back – my jar of peanut butter is now $1.74. But wait! At the store I was purchasing it from, I earn PC Optimum points and on that day they were offering 20x the points when I spent $50.00 or more in-store (that’s 30% in points!). Boom! That jar of peanut butter was free **

DITCH THE BANK FEES: Only a few of Canada’s banks provide a true no fee chequing account for Canadians, other banks require that you meet a minimum balance each month, or sign up for multiple products to qualify for free chequing. Banks such as Simple Financial and Tangerine offer a true free daily chequing account, whereas other major banks like RBC, CIBC, Scotia, BMO and TD Canada Trust have some requirements Canadians must meet to qualify for a no fee daily chequing accounts. Have had it for years, would never change back to a big bank.

USE REWARDS CARDS: Cards like: Air Miles, Optimum, Canadian Tire (money or card) or other credit cards/rewards cards are a great way to earn points for things you are already purchasing and places you are already shopping.  I have a few rewards cards – for example I have the PC Financial World Elite MasterCard®, the card that averages $300 a year in free groceries.  Add that to my Optimum card and I save tons of money on free groceries annually.  You can also use your card for gas purchases at their gas stations. To amplify your points: be sure to shop on 20x the points days or gap days in between flyers being posted.

UNPLUG THE POWER:   Unplug all power appliances before leaving the house.   If you’re not using it, unplug it!  Power companies still charge money for appliances that are turned on, but not necessarily used.  According to the Energy Star Web site, the average U.S. household spends more than $100 each year to power devices that are turned off.  One of the easiest ways to reduce phantom power consumption is to unplug appliances when the devices are not in use.

CUT OUT THE CABLE:  In Canada, we pay way too much for cable with all the bells and whistles. Given I watch Netflix the majority of the time or binge watch YouTube, I ditched the cable 3 years ago and don’t regret it one bit. Also, since I’m an Amazon Prime member, I get free shows and movies at no extra cost!

RAKUTEN: I have been using Rakuten (formerly EBates) for the last little bit and to date I’ve received a BIG FAT cheque back for $78.92 for things I would buy online in any event. I usually use this for Amazon, Groupon (see Groupon section above) and Walmart but there are many many stores to choose from. Rakuten offers cash back for shopping at places like Amazon, Walmart, Macy’s, Bloomingdales, eBay, Target, and over 2,000 more stores.

DO A FISCAL FAST:  I absolutely love this idea and I do this a few times per year. A fiscal fast is when you do not spend any money for a whole week, five times per year. It is an opportunity to use up household items, like canned food that gets pushed to the back of the cupboard or those tiny shampoo bottles you get at a hotel. Because I’m a bit OCD (lol), I do this a bit more often than 5x a year, and it certainly does work.  It’s amazing the amount of stuff you buy, the one time I didn’t have to buy anything for 2 weeks, I had a stocked freezer and full cupboards.

SCANNING CODE OF PRACTICE: Have you ever had an item scan at a higher price than what was displayed? Maybe you had the cashier adjust the price, or you simply didn’t buy it…Well, here is the deal, you could have had it free, or $10 off. Here you will find the details on the Canadian Scanning Code Of Practice (SCOP). You may not have been aware of this before, but read on to be ahead of the game when it comes to SCOP!

What is SCOP? It’s a voluntary code of practice that many Canadian Retailers follow. It is meant to ensure that consumers receive accurate pricing based on advertised prices (on shelf or in sales flyers). If the item is below $10, the customer receives the item for free.  If the item is priced over $10, the customer receives $10 off the purchase price of the item. This is a voluntary practice in Canada, so not all retailers follow it.

MAKE YOUR OWN CLEANING PRODUCTS:  The key ingredients you need just might be hiding in your pantry. Simple ingredients from the pantry can be used to make cleaning products that are kinder to the environment for a fraction of the cost. I mainly do this with essential oils

GARDEN: With food prices rising and rising and more people trying to save money due to the economy, home gardening has taken off in a big way in recent years. Burpee Seed Co. estimates that for every $50 a family spends on seeds and fertilizer, they’ll reap $1,250 in produce.

Other things I do:

  1. Don’t turn on the heat/air conditioning until you just can’t take it anymore.
  2. Don’t leave the water running while brushing your teeth or washing dishes.
  3. Keep curtains drawn in the summer to keep the house cooler.
  4. Instal energy efficient light bulbs.
  5. Use your dishwasher, washing machine and dryer at non-peak hours.
  6. Use cold water when you run the washing machine.
  7. Use a slow cooker or toaster oven.
  8. Only run full loads (laundry machine, dishwasher).
  9. Don’t buy bottled water (use a filter)
  10. Reuse tissue paper, wrapping paper and tin foil
  11. Reuse scrap paper for lists and little notes
  12. Use re-chargeable batteries.
  13. Use plastic grocery bags for garbage bags (better yet, stop using plastic bags all together, and if you must, reuse them)
  14. Shop at dollar stores.
  15. Stop buying cookbooks. There are tons of FREE recipes online
  16. Save all of your change.
  17. Visit scratch & dent warehouses for appliances.
  18. Install a programmable thermostat.
  19. Turn off the lights in rooms you are no longer using.
  20. Share your Netflix or music account (I share mine with my daughter)

Things I’d like to do this year include:

FORAGING FOR FOOD:  Chives, mint, purslane, basil, acorns, edible flowers … depending on where you live, foraging for food may be an excellent way to save a few dollars on meals.  Note: to find the edible treasures that grow in your neighbourhood, you really need to possess knowledge of what you can and can’t eat.  Do you research on food foraging before you go pick your own to be sure that what you are picking is edible and not poisonous. Not gonna lie, this one frightens me a bit, but I’ve download an app – you take a picture of the plant and it gives you all the details about it, including if it’s edible or toxic.

HANG DRY YOUR CLOTHES:  My last house used to have a clothes line and I loved it.  Not only did it save money, but I love the way hung clothes smelled when they came off the line, and your whites get brighter out in the sun!  

What kinds of things do you do to have some moulah at your house?


Urbex: Abandoned Farm House, North Wellington

It’s been 3 months since I last posted. It feels good to be back to be posting again, thank you for being patient with me, as I worked through the new world as we know it.

If you’re a follower you know that one of my favourite pastimes is exploring abandoned buildings/relics. While in British Columbia (BC) I explored a 102 year old abandoned mining smelter in Anaconda, BC and the abandoned tipple of the No 7 mine in Greenwood, BC. I’ve explored old barns and sought out remaining relics of a wool company. This hobby of mine is referred to as urban exploration (urbex). The unspoken rule of urban exploring is “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints”.

On my latest urban exploring trip I was up in Wellington North (off Hiway 6 North). It is quite amazing just how many abandoned places are in that area.

This place was a gem of a relic. Some of these homes have been empty for decades. I wish I had more information on this house, I’d love to go to the Land Registry Office and find out who owns it and understand why it’s been sitting abandoned and dilapidated. Why did they leave? Why did they leave their possessions behind? If these walls could talk … this old house …

 


Exterior Photos: Barn and Silo


Interior – Kitchen


Interior – Living Room


Upstairs – staircase 

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Are any of you fellow urbexers?

Namaste 

T xo

I Can’t Believe They Took Your Life -Toronto Rapper Houdini 🎩 😭

𝕄𝕪 𝕓𝕝𝕠𝕘 𝕙𝕒𝕤 𝕓𝕖𝕖𝕟 𝕓𝕝𝕠𝕨𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕦𝕡 𝕗𝕠𝕣 𝕒 𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕤𝕠𝕟 𝕀 𝕒𝕞 𝕟𝕠𝕥 𝕪𝕖𝕥 𝕨𝕚𝕝𝕝𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕥𝕠 𝕒𝕔𝕔𝕖𝕡𝕥!

In 2018 I posted a blog on an up and coming Toronto rapper, who since, has gained the love and respect of many a fan … to the tune of nearly 20,000,000 downloads on Spotify ALONE!  His first album Hou I Am was pure fire!  EVERY SINGLE SONG IS A BANGER! 

He was chosen as Apple Music’s Artist of the Month, Hou Woulda Thought, took the #5 spot on Apple Music and was shown a lot of love from major playlists like Northern Bars. He was collabing with the likes of Tory Lanez, Killy and co-signed with Nav, in addition to his regular crew.  He modelled for Off-White and they posted it to their Instagram earlier this month.  He just launched his latest project, a five-track EP titled underGROUND, in March 2020. He was going places.  He was the Don of the underground scene.  He was one of the top 20 artists to watch out for in 2020.  He was doing it – he was making it, getting out of Toronto – his fan base crossed international borders. Earlier this week, the blog I wrote on Hou was quoted in an article entitled “Houdini Dies at 21: Rapper Shot & Killed in Downtown Toronto” by Heavy.com and it landed traffic back to my interview with Houdini.

I wish I was blowing up for any other reason but this one 😭.

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📷: Houdini’s official IG account

As you well know Houdini (Dimarjio Antonio Jenkins) was shot and killed on May 26, 2020, in an act of brazen gun violence in the Entertainment District of Downtown Toronto. According to police, the suspects were waiting in a parked car for him, before they got out and opened fire on the rapper, who collapsed and later died from injuries. 

Hou was back in the city after shooting his latest video in L.A. with Killy and from what I understand was back due to issues renewing his artists Visa and was unable to return to L.A. due to COVID-19 and travel restrictions.  His targeted murder has been all over the local and national news. On TV, social media, paper press.  There’s no escaping it and I’m still so shook.  When I “interviewed” Hou he was living in Toronto.  I use the term “interview” lightly … truth is, I knew him.  He was dating someone in my family.

** I am not going to comment about gun violence in the city, ‘hood politics … that’s a whole bigger issue in society that I am not prepared to enter at this time. I am commenting about the person that I knew him to be. If you didn’t know him personally, if you’re just reading the dribs and drabs that the media or your privilege allow, I implore you to look deeper – do some research and you’ll quickly see the truer version of who Houdini was … there are posts from ad execs, record labels, restauranteurs, fans, young up and comers for whom he was making a real difference.  Watch his interviews online.  Look at the man – not just the image or the circumstances.  Please do the research before you form an opinion on a life you know nothing about – that’s all I’m asking ** 

The last message I got from Hou was last July, he wished me a belated happy bday – we share the same – July 23.

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What can I say?  In the years that I’ve known Dimarjio (I always called him by his legal name), he had an insatiable zest for life, the kid just wanted to LIVE, to make a difference.  He was strong in his convictions, strong enough that he denied repeated record deals, choosing to stay in his own lane and have control over his music 🎶I don’t need you all I need is myself, I wasn’t asking nobody for help🎶


“I stand on that, because when you’re signed, people expect way more from you. Like, your numbers got to be up there, you have to make sure you maintain the way you look, maintain just your whole aura. Everything. But when you’re underground, you’re more in control. You’re still kind of in the field and making music, so you could do shit. You could drop a tape and if it flops, no one really cares. But if you’re signed and you drop an album and it flops, that’s a big deal”.

~ INTERVIEW WITH ALEX NINO GHECIU  FOR  COMPLEX CANADA


He was an enormous talent, was full of love and loved to joke around.  

At times he created lyrical genius while sitting at restaurants for breakfast or dinner. Once we were out for breakfast at Cora’s he grabbed a napkin, asked me if I had a pen in my purse and start writing lyrics to a track because something came to him while listening to beats he was sent.  Or, the one time we were out for dinner at his fave Italian place in Vancouver and he’d sit there and listen to beats that he was dropped to try and figure out his next big blow up. When I was visiting them in Vancouver, he’d ask me to drop him off at the studio for hours and hours on end, then pick him up on the way back to their house.

The video for Late Nights with Burna Bandz was actually shot in my Land Rover, which I no longer own.  I remember, I was so pissed at them because they had it for days to shoot the video and I needed it back so I could get to-from work … they sent me money for an Uber lol – seems like such small potatoes now.

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Hou was clear that he had a target on his back.  They wouldn’t have his rise – to get out of the city, to be the superstar he was destined to be.  The city has hardly been accepting of its up and comers. There’s no need to look any further than the stats on rapper deaths in the city THIS year ALONE!  Jealousy breeds hatred.  Success breeds hatred.  They wanted to take you out Hou.  And they did *cry*  Crabs in the bucket!


“𝘞𝘩𝘦𝘳𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶’𝘳𝘦 𝘧𝘳𝘰𝘮 𝘺𝘰𝘶’𝘳𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘮𝘰𝘴𝘵.  𝘔𝘰𝘴𝘵 𝘳𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘥𝘪𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘪𝘳 𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘺 𝘮𝘢𝘯, 𝘪𝘵𝘴 𝘢 𝘧𝘢𝘤𝘵.  𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘩𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴 𝘸𝘩𝘰 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘴𝘤𝘩𝘰𝘰𝘭 𝘸𝘪𝘵’ 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘮𝘢𝘥 𝘣𝘦𝘤𝘢𝘶𝘴𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘪𝘯 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘵 3𝘳𝘥 𝘨𝘳𝘢𝘥𝘦 𝘤𝘭𝘢𝘴𝘴 𝘸𝘪𝘵’ 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘣𝘶𝘵 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘥𝘰𝘯’𝘵 𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘴𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘩𝘶𝘴𝘵𝘭𝘦 𝘢𝘴 𝘺𝘰𝘶.  𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘩𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘯𝘰 𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘴𝘰𝘯.  𝘛𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘩𝘢𝘵𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘧𝘰𝘳 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘴𝘶𝘤𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴.  𝘐𝘧 𝘺𝘰𝘶 𝘸𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘭𝘰𝘤𝘢𝘭 𝘳𝘢𝘱𝘱𝘦𝘳 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘥𝘪𝘥𝘯’𝘵  𝘩𝘢𝘷𝘦 𝘮𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘺 𝘸𝘰𝘶𝘭𝘥 𝘭𝘰𝘷𝘦 𝘺𝘰𝘶.  𝘠𝘰𝘶 𝘥𝘦𝘷𝘦𝘭𝘰𝘱 𝘩𝘢𝘵𝘳𝘦𝘥 𝘪𝘯 𝘺𝘰𝘶𝘳 𝘰𝘸𝘯 𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘺.

~ Boosie in an interview with VLADTV


Hou was a natural and was taken from us MUCH TOO SOON! I’m ridiculously sad over this. He did not deserve it.  No one does.  No one deserves to be stalked, targeted and taken out in the prime of their  life/career.  Shit Hou, you still had so much to do fam 😭

While the majority of the coverage/social media is largely supportive and is in shock (I just saw a video of his Houligans 🎩 placing flowers and candles down at Blue Jays Way in memoriam) what’s eating me up inside (I’m an empath) is the negative press – the trolls – those who write with such conviction of what they don’t know.  As if their presumptions are facts and they spew hate with such conviction.  No matter the side of the coin you’re on, we can all agree that no one deserves to be murdered.

And then there’s this POS!IMG_7773

What the hell is this Toronto Sun? We all know you are trash media, but this is flipping sick. Making fun of his death?  For headlines?  To the great peoples credit, they took to social media to backlash this outrageousness.  This shit from The Sun has to stop.  For all media outlets and from everyone – violent death is not trivial.  I posted my disgust to Instagram it was mentioned in two separate posts.  I hope our collective disgust prompts action from The Sun (and since they’re a trash paper, I will not hold my breath).

From: Director X at wwetv_worldwide

“Houdini is a 21 year old rapper from the city who got shot dead the same day as George Floyd, downtown Toronto, beautiful sunny day, a 15 year old kid was also shot, apparently it was a friend of his, and a 27 year old woman that was just a bystander.  Toronto is in a crisis of gun violence.  There are young people getting shot and dying constantly in this city and a lot of bystanders.  So I can understand Toronto Sun being the equivalent of your racist uncle at Thanksgiving.  I can understand they don’t that they don’t care about a young rapper getting shot.  But, you also don’t care about the innocent people just walking around? You don’t care about that?  You don’t care that that could have been your daughter? You don’t care that that could have been your friend? That that could have been you? You don’t care about that either?  It’s all a big funny joke to you because the person who did die was a rapper, a 21 year old?  You can’t see past your own prejudice to see that a 21 year old kid losing their life as their life is really getting on track, you don’t see the tragedy in that? ….. Toronto Sun, whoever wrote that headline, approved that headline – the staff that works there that saw that headline on the front page and thought it was ok, that is sociopathic.  You have an inability to feel compassion for people outside of your circle.  It’s a problem.  And, I wonder if I’m gonna hear something from the mayor, from the city, from the police … about a newspaper that thinks its ok to crack jokes about the gun violence crisis we have in our city”

I CHOOSE to ignore the haters – cause the haters gonna hate and post nothing but LOVE  for Hou …. this is just a small snippet of the thousands and thousands of posts on social media.

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Memorial by Houligans outside the Bisha Hotel, Toronto

This is a blog I never wanted to write, and I’m not sure I would have had all that traffic had not been redirected here. 

My thoughts and prayers and deepest condolences go out to the entire Jenkins fam: his mom, dad, sisters, brother and rest of the fam for the loss of dadda. To his friends and Houligans  — #LLHou 

Rest in power Dadda 💔 Love you kid!

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On Travel: Awesome Day Trip! Big White, BC to Greenwood, BC

A couple of days ago, I posted a blog on my exploration of the abandoned 102 year old smelter in Greenwood (Anaconda) BC – what a cool experience! If you haven’t had a chance to read that blog – click here.

This blog will document our journey from Big White, BC to Greenwood, BC – with stops at Beaverdell, Rock Creek and Midway.

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We headed out on Highway 33 (Kelowna Rock Creek Highway), which is the main access road to where I’m staying up at Big White.  Big White is located near the apex of the pass between West Kettle and Kelowna.

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Beaverdell

The only other visible community on Highway 33 is Beaverdell, an unincorporated settlement in Monashee Country. It’s located midway along the West Kettle River between Kelowna and Rock Creek.

Interesting Little Tidbits on Beaverdell:

  • Beaverdell was originally called Beaverton. The post offices of Beaverton and Rendell were amalgamated and the name was changed to Beaverdell.
  • Silver was discovered here in 1897 and was mined right up until 1987.
  • 350 residents make this town their home.
  • Despite its proximity to Kelowna, Beaverdell receives about 25% more rain, due to its higher elevation.

We pulled in to fill up the tank.  They have a convenient gas station that also serves as a coffee shop/and auto repair shop – convenient, right?  If you happen to drive an electric car – they also have electric chargers to meet your charging needs.

Once we gassed up we headed back out onto Hwy 33 and continued straight.  Other than absolutely stunning views and vistas, there aren’t any communities to stop at.


Westbridge

Your next point of reference will be Westbridge – you can’t miss it, it’s a bridge.  You’ll turn right onto the bridge, turning left will get you to Christian Valley. The bridge crosses the West Kettle River at the community of Westbridge, BC.

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For the remainder of the drive to Rock Creek you will see utter forestry devastation on both sides and new builds where folk lost their homes.  In 2015 an aggressive wildfire forced hundreds of people to flee the area – not to mentioned the complete devastation to plant and wildlife.  It turns out the fire appeared to be human caused and burned more than 2500 hectares.  Vegetation has since regrown and wildlife has returned and 5 years later trees still stand bare, blackened, scorched.

We just drove through Westbridge – I’d like to check out more on the Skycliffe Humph Monastery Retreat. Apparently this centre is for spiritual awareness specializes in Buddhist Transcendental Meditation.


Rock Creek

Eventually Hwy 33 turns into BC-3 E (Highway 3, which is also known as the Crowsnest Hwy) and you’ll have arrived at Rock Creek, BC. Rock Creek is an unincorporated settlement in the Boundary Country.  It’s situated on the famous Kettle Valley Rail Trail that has stunning views of the banks of the Kettle River. 

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It’s also site of the Rock Creek Gold Rush of 1859.  I was actually excited to visit Rock Creek as I had heard about the western Canadian gold rush via the television documentary series Gold Trails and Ghost Towns, (Season 3, Episode 8).  I thought I may have had a chance to see something a bit more exciting than what I did.  I saw a very high, fast moving Kettle Creek (close to breaching its banks) and campers camping at various sites for the May 2-4 Long Weekend.  Rock Creek wasn’t super exciting for me – maybe next time I can do some panning for gold?  It’s a thing, you can!

After the initial mining boom, the residents of Rock Creek began to develop an economy in agriculture, forestry, and ranching.

Next stop …


Midway

The Village of Midway is in a tranquil valley surrounded by protective mountains between the Thompson Okanagan and Kootenay Rockies. The Village of Midway’s population is a whopping 649 people!

Honestly, I thought Midway was super cute.  Could have spent a little more time here.  Also, the museums and things I’d normally love to do were closed due to COVID-19, which is unfortunate, I love museums – so full of rich local history.

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Located at “Mile 0” of the Kettle Valley Railway, one of the Museum’s main attractions is the original Station House.

Midway is also home to the Ferry-Midway Border Crossing which connects the town of Curlew, Washington with Midway. The current US border station was built in 1936 Curlew, WA and is an unincorporated community with 118 residents based on the 2010 US Census.  You can connect to Copper Bute Mountain, WA via Midway.


Greenwood

We’ve arrived!  Greenwood, BC!  I really took a liking to this historic little city.  That’s right, city not town. It’s the smallest incorporated city in Canada Pop: 665 as of 2016 and has retained its “city” status despite declination in population and business/industry.  Although it’s the size of a hamlet, it was incorporated in 1897 as a booming city, the epicentre of the mining and smelting industry in Boundary country with a boisterous population of 3,500.

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On your approach to Greenwood (just outside the city) you’ll note a historic stop point or two, worth the quick stops.

Per my last blog on the BC Copper Company Smelter ruins as you enter Anaconda, BC – the unincorporated township just outside of Greenwood – where the smelter is located, you cannot miss the 100 ft mound of dark black slag and imposing 215 ft smoke stack. Deciding to “save the best for last” we first went to explore Copper Street and the Nikkei Memorial Site.

Snow Falling on Cedars

Did you know that in 1998, several scenes of the Oscar nominated movie Snow Falling On Cedars (featuring Ethan Hawk) were filmed in Greenwood?  A lot of the Japanese extras were Japanese-Canadians who were interned during there war. Some of the phantom signs and shops remain.  The phantom signs and revamped store fronts helped transform their little mining town into the Puget Sound fishing village of Amity Harbor. The signs have faded over the years and unfortunately have not been up-kept.

These phantom signs and shops are still visible and are located on historic Copper Street.

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Nikkei Legacy Park

HOW WELL DO YOU KNOW YOUR WWII HISTORY?

Next we headed over to The Nikkei Legacy Park which is located just on the outskirts of downtown Greenwood.

In 1942, internment of Japanese Canadians occurred when over 22,000 Japanese Canadians, comprising of over 90 percent of the total Japanese Canadian population, from British Columbia were evacuated and interned in the name of “national security”. The majority were Canadian citizens by birth. This decision followed the events of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and the subsequent Canadian declaration of war on Japan during World War II. This forced relocation subjected many Japanese Canadians to government-enforced curfews and interrogations, job and property losses, and forced repatriation to Japan.

Beginning after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and lasting until 1949, Japanese Canadians were stripped of their homes and businesses and sent to internment camps and farms in the B.C. interior and across Canada. The internment and relocation program was funded in part by the sale of property belonging to this forcefully displaced population, which included fishing boats, motor vehicles, houses, and personal belongings.

On September 22, 1988, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney delivered an apology, and the Canadian government announced a compensation package, one month after President Ronald Reagan made similar gestures in the United States. The package for interned Japanese Canadians included $21,000 to each surviving internee, and the reinstatement of Canadian citizenship to those who were deported to Japan.

Among those interned at Greenwood were Isamu and Fumiko Kariya and their son Yasi, the grandparents and uncle of NHL star and Hockey Hall of Famer Paul Kariya; his father Tetsuhiko was born in internment.

Odds and Ends, Out and About Town

BC Copper Smelter Ruins

I wrote a specific blog about this, here’s the link, again.  It was super cool and I would strongly recommend exploring this!  Here are some awesome pics of that adventure. DO IT!