The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the June 01, 2016 issue. Reprinted with permission.
Rowdiness, not royalty, in Chelsea
by Tess Allen
A municipal project in Chelsea turned turbulent.
It should be noted that the year was 1887.
In light of the news that H.R.H Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, would be touring Canada, municipalities big and small prepared themselves for the possibility that he might stop by for a visit. In Chelsea, that meant the establishment of a wooded parkland on Gilmour and Company land that became known as the Grove.
The prince never showed up, opting instead to check out a large arch of evergreens installed in his honour in Aylmer. Hordes of drunk and boisterous young lads, on the other hand, felt right at home in the Grove - much to the chagrin of Chelseaites of yesteryear.
In a petition dated 1887, a group of "prominent Chelsea residents" detailed their concerns over "large numbers of men and boys from the cities of Ottawa and Hull...[who] have brought intoxicating liquors upon your grounds and have there used the same; and have spent the Sabbath day in noisy and boisterous sports and games, accompanied by obscene and profane language." The letter writers, who identify themselves as "Christian citizens [who] consider such conduct in our vicinity not only as sinful and dishonouring to God, but disgraceful to our village and disastrous to the morals of our children and young people," demand that the Grove be closed on the Lord's day.
While there is no record of a response to the petition, research finds that by 1913, picnic bookings at the Grove - of which there were many (the spot had become a recreational hub since its foundation) - were always made on Saturdays. Today, the site is behind a security gate on Hydro-Québec land.
This glimpse into a boozy bit of Chelsea's history, written by Frances Curry, is just one juicy tale included in this year's Up the Gatineau!, the 42nd volume of the local history journal released by the Gatineau Valley Historical Society since 1962.
Editor Louise Schwartz calls this year's edition "a very diverse collection of stories," featuring everything from the history of Chelsea Island as an industrial site and then a summer paradise in the 20th century, to the life of the gifted but relatively unknown painter Florence Helena McGillivray, who had a strong connection with the Gatineau Hills. The book brings together contributions by Frances Curry, Catherine Joyce, Michael Lait, Wayne Anderson, W.C. (Bill) Allen, Brooke Broadbent, Betty Kennedy, and Maureen Marcotte. As in years past, she calls the collection "a wonderful opportunity to understand your community better."
"Essentially it strengthens our collective memory and helps to bind us together as a community," said Schwartz. "It plays a really important function."
The book had its official launch on May 30 at Camp Fortune. While members of the Gatineau Valley Historical Society will receive a free copy, the publication will be available to the public at 12 local retailers in Wakefield, Kazabazua, Cantley, and Chelsea in early June for $10.
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