The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the July 08, 2009 issue. Reprinted with permission.

A picture that speaks 111 years

by Louise Schwartz

The Way We Were
The original photo on the Gatineau at Kirk's Feny taken by an unknown photographer in 1898.
ON RIGHT: David Selwyn and his grand-daughter lauren re-create the scene in 2009, with David's son John in the canoe. Photo by Mike Beedell.


Her Selwyn ancestors purchased the surrounding property in 1902, where the couple had posed four years earlier. The Selwyn passion for this landscape continues today, as three generations of descendants still live on the property.


In the summer of 1898, a photographer (name unknown) composed an idyllic scene along the Gatineau River at Kirks Ferry in Chelsea. The resulting photo shows a man standing astride a rocky point, not far from a young seated woman. Both individuals are gazing at an approaching horse and buggy about to cross the, railway line. Snaking alongside the railway tracks is the then turbulent Gatineau River.

An island, called Pearson's Island after the owner, can be spotted in the middle of the river. This photo has always intrigued my mother, Ann Schwartz, and a copy graces her apartment wall.

The Way We Were
David Selwyn displays the 1898 photo of the then-turbulent Gatineau River at Kirk's Ferry, known as selwyn Point. Photo by Mike Beedell.

In 1925, almost 30 years after the photo was snapped, the Gatineau Power Company (now Hydro Quebec) began its plan to build hydroelectric dams at three spots along the Gatineau River from Low to south of Chelsea.

This resulted in the raising of the river's water levels and the flooding of land and buildings alongside. The expropriation of many cottages, homes and farms took place in this period, the railway line was relocated west to higher ground, and Hwy 11 (now 105) was constructed.

Kirk's Ferry, the rocky point where the photo was taken, remains but it now touches the slow-flowing Gatineau River instead of a dusty dirt road. Pearson's Island has been submerged.

A chance encounter a few months back with a local professional photographer, Mike Beedell, set in motion a wish I always had, to photograph the same perspective as it looks today. Mike lives not too far north of Kirk's Ferry, near the old Burnett whistle stop.

After some planning, Kirk's Ferry residents David Selwyn (mom's brother) and his grand daughter Lauren, sporting period costume, congregated on an overcast Sunday morning in June with Mike to recreate the 1898 scene. David's son, John, in a straw boater hat, was cast in the role of canoeist, paddling in the general vicinity of the 1898 horse and buggy. Current residents who traverse the highway or waterway, or tourists chugging along in the steam train no doubt have little notion of this interesting place in history.

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