[Fred Campbell, daughter Harriet, my great-aunt] Since my mother went, digging through the house, through family archives, attempting to articulate the end of history. Digging through shelves, cupboards, boxes of papers and discovering photos, most of which I never knew existed, from both sides of the family: McLennan (and Campbell, Aird) and Page (and Swain, Cassidy). Scanning hundreds of photographs, hoping for what relatives remain to tell their stories, add clarification, confirmation. Almost every picture unlabelled, and some, possibly, completely lost, unknown. Who are some of these?
My great-grandfather, Frederick Campbell, born 1873 in Athol, just north of the village of Maxville, who married Jane Aird of Sandringham. Both are buried in Maxville, he in 1963, and she, seven years later. In most pictures, suspenders, white shirt, as though the range of pictures were from very few days. Sets of shots as opposed to set singles. In one, on his front step with daughter Harriet, he looking in hat and dark jacket very much like Pa Kettle. Already, just there, how I have dated myself. 1940s films replayed thirty, forty years later on Sunday mornings, American Public Television. These people, these events and these tokens help make up who we are, long before we had even existed. According to R.B. Campbell’s expansive The Campbells and other Glengarry-Stormont and Harrington Pioneers (1983), “Fred and Janie farmed on Lots 12 & 13 in the 21st Concession Indian Lands for a number of years before retiring and moving to Maxville. They had two daughters. Fred was a member of municipal council for a period during his residence in Maxville.” Their house in Maxville, the only residence these photos know. In the book itself, a photo of the same couple my pictures call elderly, younger. A young couple, unknown to my infant father.
[Fred on our front porch, my father the boy in the back] Fred Campbell,1873-1963. The Campbells and other Glengarry-Stormont and Harrington Pioneers provides three generations beyond, from Angus Finlay Campbell (1830-1887) and wife Elizabeth Bennett (1836-1914) to Finlay Campbell (1795-1872) and wife Harriet McKay (1800-1845) to Duncan Campbell, known by name and little more. Only that he arrived in Canada with four sons to western Quebec, two of whom eventually headed further into Glengarry, into what would become the small corner Athol, just north of not-yet-Maxville. Where generations further would come, down to my father’s own mother, the last generation of their line born there. Before the small hamlet disappeared, barely there even in name. A lingering sign on dirt road.
The Village of Maxville a product of rail, incorporated 1891, for the line that first came through between Ottawa and Coteau Landing, a point just prior to Montreal. Maxville, so named for the concentration of Scots in this, Glengarry County, largest concentration of Scottish immigration in Canada, founded as the oldest county in Ontario. The rail, that also drew away from the outer edges, drew out hamlets and corners, some into non-existence, a circle of Dominionville, Dunvegan, Athol, Tayside. When Rev. Charles W. Gordon, the author Ralph Connor, was young, the nearest rail was, he wrote, “25 miles.” Born in the manse house at St. Elmo, between bare miles of Athol and not-yet-Maxville. What would that have been? The Prescott line, a rail from Bytown to what once Caledonia Springs. Another line disappeared, where Royalty and heads of state vacationed, heading first by steamboat, then by rail, the water’s healing properties. The only evidence, bare stone in a farmer’s back forty. From his Postscript to Adventure: The Autobiography of Ralph Connor (1975):
I met my mother first in the Indian Lands Presbyterian manse, Glengarry, to which my father took her after two years or so in Lingwick. I often wonder at his nerve. Indian Lands, settled by Scotia crofters dispossessed from the Highlands and Islands by poverty-stricken lairds and dukes to make room for deer forests, poor, crude in their manner of life, passionate in their hates and loyalties, grand friends but desperate enemies. It was Lingwick over again, but more remote from civilization. The nearest railway was twenty five miles distant. There for eighteen years she lived on a glebe of twenty-four acres, cut from the bush and the deep pine forest, out of which the people had cut their little farms. How desperately lonely she was no one ever knew. She hardly knew herself, she was too busy. Her babies, arriving with biennial regularity, the women and girls of her husband’s congregation, the men and boys too, all demanded her care and got it. She was far too busy for self-pity.