The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the April 25, 2012 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Rain fails to dampen spirit of Hills nature trip

foreword by Louise Schwartz

Old Time Stuff: Reminiscences of the Ottawa of earlier days was a popular column in the 1920s and 30s compiled by George H. Wilson. This is an excerpt from The Evening Citizen, Dec. 23, 1933. Wilson introduced this story with "Some kind friend has sent Old Time Stuff a copy of the Ottawa Naturalist magazine (Vol 2 no 4) of July 1888.

In Ottawa there have been, almost from the earliest days, a little band of people who have loved to study nature to delve into the life habits of birds and insects and reptiles, to study geological formations and what not. In the year 1879, the Ottawa Field Naturalist Club was organized. The society was scientific but it had a distinctly social side, as the following account of a trip at Kirk's Ferry on June 2, 1888 will show."

The following has been edited for length. Readers should note that the vans referred to in the article were horse-drawn vehicles, and not a type of automobile as we know the term today.

What might have proved to be the most successful excursion ever held under the auspices of the Ottawa Field Naturalists' Club since it was organized proved to be rather disappointing; it was held on June 2 [1888]. This excursion was to have been held on 19th of May but was postponed on account of weather.

The Way We Were
A geological field trip of the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club along a railway cut north of the former Chelsea Grove in New Chelsea. Prepared from a lantern slide original taken by Dr. Henry Ami. circa 1900. From the Ottawa Field-Naturalists' Club Collection, Library and Archives Canada, accession number 1983-013, item 51, PA 130494.

No less than one hundred and thirty-one members and friends of the club left the city in six vans, and went via Hull and Chelsea to Kirk's Ferry, one of the prettiest and most enchanting spots on the Gatineau River. The weather bulletin gave as probabilities for the day higher temperature with bright and clear weather for the Lakes and Lower St. Lawrence district. But this report was entirely out and the day was characterized by a series of showers finally culminating in a steady downpour.

The excursionists determined despite the weather to make the best of it. The country traversed was really enchanting and on all sides the sites were charming, as the tender green foliage of the forest and of the farm crops covered the ground everywhere with a verdure of the purest hue. The different terraces were ascended in order and when the last plateau was reached there followed the picturesque scenery peculiar to the Laurentide hills, the line of demarcation between the two very sharply defined and marking clearly the boundary of cultivated land. Many beautiful flowering plants were observed and collected on the way and a number of geological specimens was obtained from a small opening or mine for phosphate of lime on the west side of the road, about ten miles from the city. The vans reached Kirk's Ferry about 12:30 p.m. and from that time until the return, rain fell steadily, much to the disappointment of all. This did not deter the naturalists however from enjoying the midday meal and the various parties sought shelter in different quarters of the woods near the river bank and falls, whilst others remained in the vans, where perfect covering could be found. It was impracticable to organize the accustomed working parties of botanists, geologists, and entomologists, etc. and accordingly not much scientific work was done. One or two new species of plants and several insects, said by the entomologists to be of value, were collected. The party reached the city again at 7 p.m. in remarkably good spirits, the tedium of the drive home having been relieved, as attested by the frequent peals of merry laughter by good stories and stirring songs.

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