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The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the August 18, 2010 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Tracking its name really pans out

by Louise Schwartz

Solving the mystery of Peter's Point turned out to be easy enough. A few weeks ago, a story in this column on Chelsea road names left one musing about Peter's Point and its origins. Within days, the question was answered.

Mark Curfoot-Mollington, now residing in Italy, was in Ottawa visiting family and friends. One of the latter, Larrimac resident Shirley Brown, mentioned the Low Down story. Mark and his partner Ron Price, who died in 2009, had summered at Peter's Point, for 25 memorable years He knew its story well.

The Way We Were
The archway signalling the entrance to Peter’s Point. Photo courtesy of Mark Curfoot-Mollington.

The surprising detail he revealed was that Peter's Point was named after a woman. She was born Alice Mercer, and as a young child was very taken with Peter Pan, a character created by novelist and playwright J.M. Barrie. Mercer's passion for the mythical boy was so strong that she loved to enact his exploits. Asa result everyone called her Peter, and Peter she remained all her life.

When she grew up, Peter married Lionel McGinnis. At some time, most likely in the 1930s, the couple built a one-storey cottage on a point of land that gently sloped down to the Gatineau River, just north of the Chelsea dam. They called their summer place Peter's Point, a name proudly displayed on a wrought-iron archway at its entrance.

The cottage was painted a rusty red with green trim, colours which remained for decades. Paned windows along its entrance side gave it an English look. Inside, an eclectic mixture of rooms girdled the central core of the living room. Used as sitting rooms, bedrooms, or eating areas, none was very large, but each had a pleasant vista of differing perspectives of the river.

The Way We Were
Approach to the cottage at Peter’s Point (circa late fall 1983). Photo courtesy of Ann Schwartz.

At that time there was no road down to the house, so everything was carried down old cinder-block steps. Somewhat secluded and private, little patios greeted visors at various spots down to the cottage, with their own views of the hills and river There were lovely gardens, very natural with lots of local wild flowers. At one time there was even a statue to Peter Pan in the rockery garden. In the McGinnis's time, an orchestra, probably a small band, would play for parties.

Peter died in 1951. Lionel, who died in 1962, remarried after Peter's death and his second wife, Eva Marie, survived him by only a few months. Two single sisters in their fifties, Desiree and Esme Girouard, purchased Peter's Point from the estate of Eva Marie in 1964.

They loved entertaining and never forgot the day a young minister of justice in the Pearson government, Pierre Elliot Trudeau, showed up in his convertible, invited by a mutual friend. To their friends, they whispered about a ghost, but details are wispy. In 1984, with Esme in poor health, the "Girouard girls" reluctantly sold to Mark and Ron, who owned it until 2008.

Around 1994, when the road needed a name to enable 911 service, the neighbours - including Harky Milks - met and unanimously suggested Peter's Point. Mark was a bit hesitant, feeling the name really only applied to the original McGinnis property. However, he finally agreed and the road became Chemin Peter's Point.

One day at least ten years ago, the McGinnis's granddaughter showed up with two other women. Out of the blue, as Ron was giving them a tour, she asked if she could bury the ashes of her mother the McGinnis's daughter. They located a suitable site and interred the ashes that same day. Except for a few flowering plants put in by Ron, no marker exists.

Today, the property is hidden from the river by trees and bushes. The wrought-iron archway was knocked down by a septic pumper truck one year and never replaced. A laneway now leads to the still-charming cottage, and the little patio stopping points are all grown over. However, the memory of a woman called Peter lives on in the name - Peter's Point.


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