Prince Edward County, my stomping grounds since I was a kid and the home of my parents, is a magical place filled with amazing scenery and natural wonders. Endless sand dunes, the limitless horizon of the water, and a fascinating history have always made it a wonderful spot for adventure. I’ve been on many in that area, (see previous posts) but one story that always sticks with me are the ancient burial mounds studied by Thomas Wallbridge in 1860. Acquiring a copy of Wallbridge’s 1860 archeological report on his findings of odd stone “mounds” in “The Canadian Journal Of Industry, Science and Art- 1860″ , Wallbridge notes that before the native Iroquois that once roamed the region, there were “traces of a more ancient race”.

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The fascinating entry in the journal remarks on how an unknown “race” had erected works in Prince Edward County unnoticed, which became the subject of the first documented archaeological report in Ontario. Wallbridge noted that 100 mounds existed in Prince Edward County, and they occurred in groups of two on the shores of water. Upon excavating one of the mounds Wallbridge discovered a limestone box made up of flat stones, where skeletons were found sitting in an upright position with folded arms.


Wallbridge’s sketches of the ancient mounds in Prince Edward County. 

The mounds mostly comprise of stone, metamorphic granite that is not typically found in that area. This means the builders would have had to carry the stones from afar to construct these unexplained mounds.

Wallbridge concludes his report by saying “Whatever be the origin of these remains, it is clear that the Massassaga Indians were not the builders of the works which they are entombed, since this tribe, it is well known, buried their dead in wrapped birch bark, and laid them at full length a few inches beneath the surface of the soil,” Wallbridge is perplexed at the whole series of mounds, and insists “the skeletons found in the sitting posture belong to some other and far earlier race.”

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Some of the items found by Wallbridge inside the mysterious mounds of PEC. 

Now we must remember that archaeology was still a rather new field of study at the time of Wallbridge, so proper knowledge of former occupation and indigenous history were naively unknown. But what is most interesting is a more recent study of the mounds that throw a new light on an old mystery.



A more recent study of the mounds was done by a fellow by the name of Beauchamp in 1905 and reversed what was thought earlier about the ancient mounds being for burial purposes and was inclined to believe that the burials Wallbridge found were “intrusive” (dug into it later, not the original) and of no “high antiquity”.

An article from 2001 in Ontario Archeology (number 72, 2001) by David A. Robertson suggests that studies have “failed to reach a consensus as to their function.” It was observed that the mounds comprised of “burnt rocks” which indicated they were under the influence of fire and heat.

Robertson then details similarities of the PEC mounds to burned rock middens in Texas and in Ireland where they are known as fulachata fiadh (“outdoor” or “wild cooking places”). Similar features can be found in ancient mounds in the Orkneys, and regions of Atlantic Europe. These mounds would almost always be found near marshy areas where a hole dug into the ground would quickly fill with water. These stone enclosures were filled with water and heated stones thrown in to create a pool of boiling water in which meat was cooked, or used for bathing, washing and dyeing of cloth, and leather working.


An ancient Irish burnt mound, or fulachata fiadh, excavated. (image: Wikipedia)

The ancient Irish mounds date from Early Bronze Age (2,300-1,700 B.C.) with the majority dating to the second millennium B.C. with various explanations as to their use ranging from cooking ovens to wool production.

Robertson outlines the lack of study of the Prince Edward County mounds, and states:

“It is clear that the Quinte and Perch Lake burnt stone mounds bear close similarities with sites found in Texas and Atlantic Europe and undoubtedly elsewhere: namely the massive quantities of shattered, burnt rock enclosing a small area, the presence of hearths, deposits of ash and charcoal-rich soil, and a general dearth of associated artifacts. Some other parallels with the burnt mounds of Ireland and Britain are even more striking, although these must remain only subjective impressions until further research is devoted..”

Both mound structures are situated in marshy areas, and both have slab stoned chambers in the centre. Robertson also mentions that these ancient mounds could have been used as food processing centres, for boiling fats and preserving foods.


An excavated Scottish burnt mound, with similar characteristics to the mounds of PEC. (image:Scottish Archaeological Research Framework)

Curious to view these mounds that lie within a short distance of my family’s home, I visited the Prince Edward County site Wallbridge mentions to see for myself what characteristics they may have to give up some possible clues as to their purpose.

Mapping out where the mounds may be located, I indeed came across some of the unusual mounds and recorded my finds. They are situated in close proximity to the shore of Lake Ontario facing east in groups of two with a huge marshy area surrounding the area. The mounds are about 20-ft in diameter and are about 8ft in height. The pair of mounds with their centre points connected with a line align to the rising sun in the east.


An un-excavated mound in Prince Edward County. 

There is an palpable aura to the whole area, a stillness and a sense of energy that defies explanation. If I was to speculate, these mounds were used for a ceremonial purpose, either for a fire ceremony or a celestial event.


Other theories for their use include indigenous sweat lodges, houses, and the commonly accepted burial rituals. Only one thing is certain, no one seems to know exactly what these ancient stone mounds were made for, and until we look into it further, their real purpose and the confirmed identity of their builders may never be known.


Andrew King, January 2018


Mounds of Sacred Earth, W.A. Kenyon. –







Ottawa’s thirst for craft beer seems unquenchable with close to twenty craft breweries now operating in the Nation’s Capital which is pretty good for a town others like to call “The Town That Fun Forgot”. Since Ottawa’s first tavern opened in 1819 (see previous story on that pub here), Ottawa has always been a burg of beer drinkers, so it’s no surprise to see our local breweries doing so well. As these new breweries open and pour their wares at an alarming rate, let’s not lose sight of our important beer history and see if we can find Ottawa’s first brewery, a brewery that I believe was located at the base of this nation’s government, Parliament Hill.

In researching the W5 of this city’s very first brewery, I came across an excellent account of Ottawa’s food and drink lineage titled “Ottawa Food: A Hungry Capital” published in 2014 by Don Chow and Jennifer Lim which examines the history of food and drink in the National Capital Region. They mention it was difficult to pinpoint exactly Bytown’s (Ottawa’s former name) first brewery, but they believe it was “The Victoria Brewery” that operated from 1829 to 1899 at the corner of Rochester and Wellington St, in the now flattened Lebreton Flats neighbourhood. Built by John Rochester, it produced a double stout and an India Pale Ale. By delving into further research I think I have uncovered further information that reveals there may have been an even earlier brewery operating in Bytown.



An early sketch of how Bytown looked in 1825.

A great piece at shows that in 1819 a Ralph Smith from King’s County, Ireland built a house near Richmond Landing. An excerpt from the book by Nicholas Davin “An Irishman in Canada” published in 1877 reveals that this Ralph Smith built the first house on the south shore of the Ottawa River, the second being the hut of Nicholas Sparks. After arriving on the shore near Richmond Landing in 1819 and building his house there, Smith got to work operating a brewery and a ferryboat to take people and things across the river to Wrightstown (now Gatineau/Hull).

So that means if Smith built a brewery in 1819, that pre-dates the Victoria Brewery by ten years, making it the very first. Now you may say, that’s all fine and dandy to say he was the first, but as we all know, the proof is in the pudding.



The map from 1831 of Bytown at the Library and Archives Canada shows a brewery just west of what is now Parliament Hill. (MIKAN 4135481)

Old maps of Bytown/Ottawa have always fascinated me, providing a glimpse back in time through their carefully inked information, recording places in a time that was never photographed. I can sit down and pour over old maps for hours, studying the fascinating places that came and went in Ottawa, and one such map is the one at the Library and Archives Canada labelled MIKAN 4135481 Bytown 1831. 


Overlaying the 1831 map over the current Google Map.


This map drawn to show the topography of the riverfront of what is now Parliament Hill, back then “Barrack’s Hill” because it was a military outpost, clearly labels a body of water on the south shore, just west of the Hill as “Brewery Bay”. A closer look reveals that there is a small building labelled “Brewery”. Bingo. This is likely the proof of Smith’s south shore brewery that he started twelve years earlier. But hang on you say, not so fast Mr. King, because another source says that a certain Mr.Burke opened the first brewery in that area. Yet that was not operational until 1844, well after the 1831 brewery that is marked on the map. My money is always on maps, and that 1831 map is showing Smith’s brewery, the first one.



If we use that map from 1831 as proof of Ottawa’s first brewery, we can then extrapolate through time and find its current whereabouts using GoogleMaps and overlays of each.
Doing so reveals that the shoreline behind parliament went through a rise in waters, I’m guessing from the Carillon Dam being built downriver in 1964 and put much of the river shoreline upstream from it underwater.


The first brewery itself seems to have been located just inside Brewery Bay, escaping the flooding waters which submerged the peninsula, which can sometimes be seen at low water time during the year. If this location is correct, then the ruins of Ottawa’s first brewery either lie in the wooded area off the bike path, as shown in the images below, are submerged underwater, or were demolished by some government works building parking lots or whatever else they built down at the river.

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The area of “Brewery Bay” looking east…note the submerged peninsula to the left, just a few inches underwater. (Google)

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               The forested area roughly where Ottawa’s first brewery was likely located. (Google)

There are some rocky blocks visible through Google Streeview in that area, I’m not sure if those are part of the former brewery or some other post-brewery structure. Once the warmer weather returns and the snow melts it might be a good idea to scope it out for any signs of the brewery, which of course I’ll bet is on NCC property.

If anyone else would like to confirm or deny that this is the first brewery location, then please feel free to chime in. In the meantime, let’s pour a cold beer and enjoy remembering where exactly Ottawa’s first brewery was located.

Andrew King 2018


Library and Archives Canada

Google Maps


The Vanished Village of Long Island


Just south of Ottawa, before you reach the town of Manotick on River Road, there is a popular Rideau Canal lock station called Long Island Locks. Surrounded by quiet, empty fields of gently swaying long grass, there is a crumbling ruin of an old farmhouse that was the victim of a recent fire. This lone old house was not always in such solitude, but was once surrounded by a bustling village called Long Island.


This 19th century painting depicts the area of Long Island and the village can be seen to the left. (IMAGE: Library and Archives Canada)

No trace of this multi-block town can be found today, but streets, a church, hotels and a post office were all part of this community back in the mid 19th century. Where did it go and why did it vanish without a trace? Let’s explore the area of this once-thriving community that seems to have vanished from time and space.


The village of Long Island seemed to comprise of log structures like these depicted in another painting from the 1800s. (Image: Library and Archives Canada)

First settled in the 1830’s during the construction of the Rideau Canal, the village of Long Island seems to be shrouded in obscurity, being difficult to pinpoint as to its exact location. The village at its peak in the mid-1860s contained general stores, two churches and its own post office. However, once a fellow by the name M. K. Dickinson built his stately stone flour mill in Manotick, many of the original settlers moved into Manotick and the village of Long Island went into decline.


Some travellers by canoe approach the village of Long Island in the 1800s. (Image: Library and Archives Canada)

Not much evidence of its existence seems to have survived, just a few sketches and the map of the village as drawn for the County Atlas of 1880. So using that map and overlaying that with current Google Maps, we can pinpoint with accuracy where this ghost village was actually situated.

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Map from 1880s showing the spread of the village on River Road. 

The village must have gone into decline in the early part of the 20th century, as it seems to have disappeared from maps after that time. Was there a sweeping fire that tragically reduced the village to ash? Did the government expropriate the village and bulldoze it out of history? These details are unknown, but I welcome any feedback as to what happened to this village to make it disappear from both the landscape and map records.

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Google Maps with an overlay of the map of the village from 1880s showing the extent of the streets, properties and the churchyard.

Once we overlay the old 1880 map of Long Island village on a current map we can see exactly the location of the ghost town, and many features of the boundaries match up with the current terrain. An investigation of this area would be necessary to search for clues of this lost village and to confirm that this was the right area.

Using map landmarks such as the church and creek, we can use those waypoints to begin our investigation.




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A quick search on Google Maps reveals that there is not much left of the vanished village. The map overlays show the general area where the village would have been located, so in order to investigate it properly, an on-site wander was necessary. You’d blink and miss it it if driving by it on River Road, as years of overgrowth and tress have obscured most of the original site. yet, one key element remains: a deserted graveyard in a field.


Stone obelisks and toppled gravestones mark the location of the village churchyard. 


Toppled tombstones and stone obelisks dot the landscape at the site of what was once the church yard as sketched on the original map.



The church seems to have long since been removed, but its interred parishioners still remain, a ghostly reminder of the village long gone. A wander through and examination of the toppled stone markers shows dates in the 1880s, probably when the church was still functioning, but I could not see any dates after that so I am assuming the church yard was not used after the 1890s.

A further wander into the area revealed no trace of the village, only the creek that is mapped out on the original map.

The creek is still there, but no other evidence of this vanished town can be found in the tall grass and scrub of the area. A trek to the shore of the river reveals many bricks strewn around as if the town was bulldozed into the river. I would imagine with the proper permits and a metal detector and/or an archeological dig one could unearth many fragments of evidence that prove the village was once there, but alas, I do not have that access and leave it up to the proper authorities to investigate this ghost village further.


The Long Island Locks as photographed in the 1800s. (Image: Library and Archives Canada)




It is fascinating to know that a vibrant, thriving village once existed where nothing exists today, other than the swaying grasses of mother nature. The mystery of what happened to the lost village of Long Island will continue until more is known, but with the old maps, photos, and paintings from the past, we can somewhat piece together what is left on the barren landscape today, and glimpse that of yesterday. With a proper archeological investigation we may uncover more evidence than just the toppled graves of the people that once lived there, but until then, I recommend you check it out and walk through the Vanished Village of Long Island for yourself.


Toppled and discarded bricks line the shores of the Rideau River where the village used to be…was the village demolished and pushed into the river to be forgotten?


Andrew King, November 2017


Google Maps

Library and Archives Canada

McGill Digital Atlas Project







A Trick or a Treat: The story of Canada’s Cursed Candy Kiss

It’s available only in Canada. It’s available only during Halloween. No one seems to ever like them, but it mysteriously sells-out of stores every year…Canada’s love-hate relationship with a 75 year old candy that is an endearing seasonal confection: The Kerr’s Molasses Candy Kiss.

Kerr’s is a Canadian candy company that first offered products in 1895. Their website states that the company was founded by Edward and Albert Kerr after they immigrated from Scotland to Canada.


The Scottish Molasses Candy that may have been the inspiration for Canada’s most contested candy. (Image:

In Scotland, the molasses candy kiss was made by Stewart and Young in Glasgow under “The Steamship Brand”. Perhaps these sticky, tooth pulling candies were harvested from the depths of a Scottish bog.  Kerr’s would use their Scottish angle in their branding with their highly recognizable Scottish “tartan” packaging, a uniquely Canadian brand. But it would not be until the 1940s that Kerr’s would venture into the bizarre world of hard, chewy molasses candies that would find their way into the bottom of Canadian trick-or treaters bags each Halloween.

The Kerr’s website details what is exactly in these “molasses Candy Kisses” and in all honestly, they sound very wholesome and a most natural kind of candy. They use an original recipe made with 10% real molasses, no artificial colours, real sugar (not the usual cheaper high fructose corn syrup), no modified or hydrogenated fats or oils, and they are peanut free, tree-nut free, gluten free, vegetarian & Halal. By all intent, this sounds like a great candy…but why do so many of us Canadians say we dislike them and yet it still is available each year? Is it because of nostalgia we can never get rid of it like an old pair of slippers? According to Kerr’s company President, “Molasses Kisses are a Canadian Halloween tradition,” but also admits that the love of this treat within the Kerr’s company hovers around the 50% mark.


Even though most of us Canadian kids would turn our noses up at these morsels in our Halloween candy sacks, these tar-like candies have miraculously increased in production each year to meet increasing demand, which leads me to believe there is some cult like following of this product similar to the bizarre people that like that Thrills gum that tastes like soap.


The first mention of a molasses candy recipe can be found in the Official cookbook of the White House circa 1887. (Image: Google) 

So why make a molasses candy that could be one molecule apart from the tar putty used to patch cracks in asphalt?  The history of the molasses candy kiss dates back to 1887 where the earliest mention I could find of the candy was in the Official White House Cook Book. Listed under “Dessert Candy” the White House may have been the source of this sweet scourge to find its way into our loot bags, making the molasses treat popular. This candy in the US would be labeled more popularly as “Tootsie Rolls”, whose lineage traces back to World War 2 when they were included in American field rations, since their toughness allowed them to survive a variety of environmental conditions on the frontlines.


Did World War 2 GI rations spawn the candy that became a ghoulish Halloween treat? (Image

Perhaps then it is not coincidence that Kerr’s would also introduce their version of a molasses candy during World War 2 with their own molasses treat. Was it like Silly Putty and accidentally invented in a confectionary lab that would later be used to seal tire punctures on operational war vehicles during battle? Who knows. But it did become a tradition to get these molasses candies every Halloween, a bargaining item during “tradesies” of a candy haul after a night trick-or-treating.

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Kerr’s began manufacturing and distributing their molasses candy during World War 2. (Image: Kerr’s website)

Now proudly in its 75th year of production, the Kerr’s Candy Kiss with its distinctive orange, yellow and black wrapper seems to defy the marketing odds, a treat for the molasses masses.  For better or worse, the Molasses Candy Kiss will remain a part of Canada’s bizarre collective cultural enlightenment, sitting proudly up there with Ketchup Chips, cheese curds, Kraft Dinner, and our need to put vinegar on French fries.

Kerr's Kiss

Canada’s one and only Halloween treat…love it or hate it, it is part of our culture. (Image: Kerr’s website)

So this Halloween if you get a Kerr’s Candy Kiss, don’t grimace in disgust, embrace its uniquely Canadian heritage and maybe melt it into your Tim Horton’s coffee for a truly Canadian seasonal treat, eh?

Andrew King, October 2017


A Hidden Prohibition-era whiskey Distillery

South of Ottawa, amidst the suburban sprawl of new homes near Barrhaven, there is a big box mall, complete with an LCBO outlet for suburbanites. Walk into any LCBO of legal age and you can easily purchase your favourite alcoholic beverage, yet this was not always the case. Between 1916-27 consumption of alcohol in Ontario was illegal, but wineries, breweries and distilleries could remain operating for the “export market”, which was basically rum-running booze over to the thirsty United States. With alcohol  banned in Ontario, its manufacture, unless for medicinal purposes, was illegal. That is why some entrepreneurs south of Ottawa created their own secret whiskey distillery, a hidden shack in the woods near a railway line to the United States that produced what was to become a favourite in the Roaring Twenties of New York…a product called “Pokey Moonshine”. It brought notoriety to Ottawa and even a fellow by the name of J.Edgar Hoover, the first Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This secret, yet notable 1920s Prohibition whiskey shack has long been silent, but its ruins still exist in the woods.



A typical forest whiskey still for making moonshine.

The year was 1916 and the Ontario Temperance Act was a law passed that led to the Prohibition of alcohol in Ontario. The sale of alcohol was thus prohibited, but liquor could still be manufactured in the province for export. The United States would follow suit in 1920 with the Volstead Act, or the The National Prohibition Act, which established prohibition in the United States. Liquor was essentially outlawed in both countries in the 1920s so illegal distilleries began to make their own bootleg liquor called “moonshine”, a slang term for high-proof distilled spirits produced illicitly without government authorization under the darkness of night…under the moon, hence the term “moonshine”.

Ottawa was no exception to joining in on the illegal production of liquor. The United States is only an hour south of the city by car, so a group of enterprising individuals set up a famous Prohibition whiskey still in the woods near Manotick that went by the name of “Pokey Moonshine”.


An Ottawa newspaper from 1928 describes a settlement south of the city as “Pokey Moonshine” named after the fact that its residents made “pokey” which was slang for a type of whiskey. Now being enterprising individuals, the Pokey Moonshiners built their secret still in the woods off the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Railway, which ran from Prescott, On on the St.Lawrence river across from Ogdensburg, NY., all the way up to Ottawa. The Pokey Moonshine still was built off the to the side of this railway line which cuts through thousands of acres of untamed forest land.


According to Al Lewis’ great post on , there was a still built off the tracks where the “Pokey Moonshine” was manufactured, bottled and then crated into wooden crates labelled as “tea” to avoid suspicion.


The “Pokey Moonshine” would be crated as “tea” according to local lore before being loaded onto the CPR train from Ottawa bound for Prescott, then over to Ogdensburg, NY.

It is unclear what would happen next, whether the moonshiners paid off the train engineer to stop the train on the tracks by the hidden still, or if the train was on a scheduled stop and the crated whiskey was transported to the station and loaded onto the train there, but the whiskey was loaded aboard and made its way down to Prescott piers where it was loaded onto boats and shipped over the river to the United States and into the dry mouths the many Great Gatsbies of the US.


The United States during Prohibition created The Bureau of Prohibition, a federal law enforcement agency to enforce the National Prohibition Act. When it was first established in 1920, it was a unit of the Bureau of Internal Revenue.


J. Edgar Hoover (image: Wikipedia)

In 1921, J. Edgar Hoover rose in the Bureau of Investigation to deputy head and, in 1924, the Attorney General made him the acting director, overseeing and policing illicit alcohol production and distribution. Hoover’s crack team of investigators, who would later be known as “The Untouchables” included Eliot Ness who headed this elite squad of bootleg busters.


Raids against stills and breweries began immediately, and the Pokey Moonshine operation was most likely known to investigators.


J. Edgar Hoover decided to pay a visit to the Ottawa area in the 1920’s. A cousin of J. Edgar’s, George Hoover, married a young girl from the Osgoode area and the law enforcement head decided it was time to come visit his cousin who happened to be in Pokey Moonshine territory.


Hoover takes aim with a Tommy Gun.

A large black car is said to have taken George and his cousin J. Edgar around the area, most likely in search of the famously secret still providing the US with a lot of “tea”.



With such an illustrious past and notorious history, I wondered if this famous ol’ Prohibition whiskey still existed out in the woods. Could the secret moonshine still be somewhere south of Ottawa waiting to be found?

Using the information found from researching the story, I headed into the general vicinity of where I thought the hidden still may be located. Walking along the long abandoned railway tracks that the whiskey was once transported on, I looked for clues in the area that may reveal some kind of moonshine operation almost a hundred years ago.


In the sweltering heat and along the mosquito ridden path of the old railway a clue would soon be revealed in the form of a rusty metal gate. Overgrown, the gate lead to a pathway into the woods that seemed worthy of further exploration. Following the overgrown path into the woods the ruins of an old log cabin soon became visible.


It’s log walls had crumbled away and now lay rotting, but the crude stone foundation could still be seen as well as various metal vessels and pots that were most likely were used in the distilling process.


Sections of long collapsed tin roofing was strewn around the site that made me suspect that this was indeed the location of the Pokey Moonshine Still.


Here is a video of the initial find of the possible whiskey distillery.

Taking a moment to reflect on how this parcel of land may have looked during the Prohibition era I could almost hear the sounds of the men and women hard at work making illegal whiskey, bottling and crating it in “tea” crates to the sound of a distant steam whistle from an incoming train bound for Prescott.


There is not much left of the site, but it is truly a unique find worth preserving if it truly is the Pokey site.



Such a unique and influential part of Ottawa history should be preserved in some form, and that is why I will keep its location a secret like it has remained for almost a century. Perhaps I am completely wrong and it is not the old Pokey Moonshine still, but as I have learned through past adventures, trust your gut instincts. The research information combined with the evidence strewn on the forest floor was enough to convince me this was the site of the notorious Prohibition liquor distillery known as the Pokey Moonshine still.

You put your right foot out,
You put your right foot in,
And you shake it all about.
You do the Hokey Pokey,
And you turn it all around,
That’s what it’s all about.

Andrew King, October, 2017 


Al Lewis,

Al Lewis,











The Amherst Island Stone: Odd inscription found on isolated shoreline of Lake Ontario


Growing up across from Amherst Island during my childhood, I never really visited the large island across from me in the 18 years I was so close to it. Waking up each morning in my home on Nicholson’s Point, I was greeted by a wonderful panoramic view of this unique island situated on the eastern end of Lake Ontario. Approximately seventy square kilometres in size, Amherst Island is one of the few remaining tranquil islands on Lake Ontario untouched by the tourist hordes, its rich history yet to be explored in detail. Perhaps that is why the discovery of a large stone with a curious inscription on it has gone unnoticed, and unexplained.


There is a vast history of Amherst Island that I can not give proper justice, but I can give a brief account of its interesting past throughout time.  Originally inhabited by Indigenous peoples who called it Koonenesgo, meaning “drowned land” it was later granted to the French explorer La Salle in 1675 when King Louis Of France gave La Salle all land ten miles west of Fort Frontenac (Kingston), which included this large island. La Salle, in turn, gave the island to his loyal lieutenant, Henri De Tonti, an Italian employed by the French who had a previously blown his hand off when a grenade exploded near him during a battle. Replacing his missing hand with a prosthetic hook covered by a glove, he earned the nickname “Iron Hand”.


Henri de Tonti, the one handed man of whom the island was once named after. (image: Wikipedia)

Neither La Salle nor Tonti apparently ever visited the island that they owned, but it was always called Isle Tonti after the hook handed Italian. Lying uninhabited for many decades, in 1788 it was granted by the British Crown to Sir John Johnson, but then in 1823 Sir John’s daughter, Catharine Maria Bowes, took over the island. Local legend says that Maria lost the island in a card game gone sour back in Ireland. Whatever happened, Maria Bowes was in financial ruin and gave power of attorney to Stephen Moore, 3rd Earl Mount Cashell, who purchased the island from her in 1835.


1878 map of Amherst Island, later renamed after a British general. (Wikipedia)

Mount Cashell wanted Amherst Island for profit and other reasons, hoping Irish immigrants would help him clear and cultivate the land, thus increasing its value and provide a steady income from his leasing the land to the Irish settlers. They prospered on the island, and schools, churches, and stores were built, as well as homes and other necessary businesses for the population of 1,000 people that it had by 1841. There was even a fort built on the eastern end of the island to protect it from any invading Americans from across the lake. Cashell would also soon succumb to financial difficulties with the island, and in 1856 he foreclosed on Amherst Island it was sold by public auction for much less than its market value to a Robert Perceval-Maxwell. Maxwell sold or leased farmland for a variety of economic ventures including dairy, shipbuilding, timber, and grain harvest. The island today operates mostly as an agricultural island, with a variety of summer homes and other communities, sitting much like it has for decades.


Having sold a painting to customers on Amherst Island, I had agreed to deliver the piece to their home, a visit I had not made to the island in over 20 years. The last time I was on the island I was 12 and sailed a dinghy across to it from my home on Nicholson’s Point, grabbed a Coke at the General Store, then sailed back. This time I wanted to explore the island in more detail , knowing it was virtually untouched and probably contained numerous historical elements waiting to be explored. One of these being an old fort labeled on an old map I came across at the Glanmore mansion in Belleville, ON.


A fort marked on an old map of Amherst Island.

There, marked on the map was a fort, something I had never heard about. So, wanting to look for any remnants of this marked fort, I packed the car with my camera, my painting, and boarded the ferry in Millhaven, mere minutes from my childhood home.

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The serene island on Lake Ontario. (Google Maps)

Arriving on the island, I was struck by how serene and peaceful it was, quietly stuck in another era, with its old homes, barns and stone ruins from the past spotting the landscape. After delivering the painting and enjoying a few cups of coffee and a chat with my new “islander” friends, I headed in the direction of where I thought the old fort ruins may be located. Travelling along the south shore of the island, I stopped to inspect a large stone off the shore, a granite boulder that looked out of place among the predominant sedimentary limestone that makes up most of the bedrock on the island.


A large boulder amidst the limestone.

Cursing the fact I didn’t bring my swimsuit, I got as close to the boulder as I could, then turned around and noticed a weird stone grotto built into the cliff of the shore. In the dirt next to it was a bizarre tooth.


An oddly manmade looking stone grotto on the shoreline of the island.


Bizarre looking tooth found buried in the dirt near the grotto.

Curious, I now walked along the shoreline looking for other oddities and came across another large granite stone, this time on the shore and propped up with wedges underneath, to make it a standing stone, or “dolmen”.

Carrying on further I came across a very large stone with two odd holes in it, and what looked to be an inscription on it.


Large rock with two holes and odd inscription (right)


I’m unsure as to why two holes were in the rock, but I was even more unsure as to why there would be an inscription carved into the stone. Was it someone’s initials scribed into the rock’s surface by some early graffiti artist on the island? That was my first thought until I noticed the last figure was not a letter, but a symbol. What looked to be “JMW” seemed to more like a line of symbols than letters, and so I took a closer look.

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I took photos of the rock and inscription and carried onwards to where the fort should have been, but found no trace of this old structure supposedly built by islanders who were armed and ready to engage any attackers from the United States to the south, coming across the lake during the Upper Canada Rebellions of 1837. The fort was apparently later abandoned, and fell away into history, its remains and location unknown. I returned back to the mainland with more questions than answers, as this island seems to have some odd ruins, interesting geological features and a beauty that needs to be re-visited.


The inscription look old and weathered, not a recent carving into the rock. The holes seem to be newer, but the symbols look much older. This of course would require a professional examination.

Studying the stone’s inscription further, I believe an explanation could be one of the following:

  1. Early settler or more recent graffiti carving of initials “JMW” but the carver did not have time to finish his letter ‘W’ with a final arm of the letter missing.
  2. Indigenous inscription
  3. Possible ancient visitor inscription

EXPLANATION 1: Modern/Early settler inscription


The most likely explanation is that the rock was scribed by some local resident bored at the water’s edge one day, who attempted to carve his initials into the rock but never had time to finish the last letter. Perhaps he was daydreaming and just started making holes in the rock as well. The island was once inhabited by out-of-work Rideau Canal Stone Masons of Irish and Scottish descent, so that could be likely. But why there? Why in such a remote and secluded spot? And why would the carver not finish their initials? After going to so much trouble, would you not want to finish the last letter of your initials before leaving, or at least come back later to finish the final arm of the letter W? The “M” inscribed, may not even be an M, but rather two separate symbols since they don’t seem to connect…but who knows until it is studied further.

EXPLANATION 2: Indigenous Carving

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Amherst Island was once inhabited by the Iroquois and other natives to the area, so perhaps this rock was marked by a group who settled nearby. The markings seem to coincide with the markings left on a stone in Massachusetts called the Bourne Stone, with almost identical “J, M” , and the squiggle. Is there some connection to the Amherst Island stone and the Bourne Stone despite their separation by hundreds of kilometres? From my preliminary research, the local indigenous people did not carve stones, with the only evidence of ancient petroglyphs being near Peterborough. Were they made by the same tribes? Perhaps someone knows.

EXPLANATION 3: Ancient explorers


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What first struck me about the last two figures of the inscription were their similarity to ancient rune scripts, the Norse runes and the ancient Futhark used by Ango-Saxon tribes.


Upon closer comparison, the inscription symbols also resemble Iberian Script, a script used in the southern parts of France and Spain during the early BC years. The symbols seem almost identical. Were ancient explorers from Europe on the Great Lakes leaving their mark on Lake Ontario? With the discovery of a Norse spearhead in 1929 across the lake from Amherst Island, it does seem plausible that perhaps Norse visitors made it to Lake Ontario and left a mark when they were here a 1000 years ago.



Again, I defer to the professionals to study the Amherst Stone in greater detail, but until that happens, the rock and its inscription will continue to weather the years on the shores of Amherst Island in quiet hiding.

Andrew King,  September 2017







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“Deer Island” on the St. Lawrence River south of Ottawa is home to the “Skull and Bones” secret society initiation rituals. (image: BingMaps)

Steeped in historic secrecy for almost two centuries, the Skull and Bones society is an undergraduate secret society based at Yale University, New Haven, Connecticut. Under the corporation of the Russell Trust Association which owns the society’s real estate and oversees the organization and its “Bonesmen”, they also control an island 1.5 hours south of Ottawa.


The logo of the Skull and Bones Society with the number “322” underneath…supposedly signifying that members measure dates from the year 322BC instead of from the common era.

Founded in 1832 after a dispute among Yale debating societies Linonia, Brothers in Unity, and the Calliopean Society over that season’s Phi Beta Kappa awards, the Skull and Bones society has since had their assets managed by the society’s alumni organization, the Russell Trust Association, which was incorporated in 1856 and named after the Bones co-founder, Russell Gilman.


An early photo of the Skull and Bones Society with what is reportedly the skull and bones of Geronimo.

The first description of the Skull and Bones secret society was published in 1871 and it became known that Skull and Bones selects new members among Yale students every spring as part of Yale University’s “Tap Day” which it has done since 1879.

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Deer Island, part of Skull and Bones lies in the St. Lawrence River about 1.5 hrs south of Ottawa. (Google Maps)

This society cloaked in secrecy, owns and manages Deer Island, an island retreat on the St. Lawrence River about 1.5 hrs south of Ottawa, where Bonesmen continue to initiate themselves on this island as they have done so since it was purchased by the Russell Trust Co. This forty-acre retreat is meant to give Bonesmen an opportunity to “get together and rekindle old friendships”, and it once boasted tennis courts and softball fields, surrounded by rhubarb plants and gooseberry bushes. It even hosted elegant meals, and it is said that all new Skull and Bones members still visit Deer Island as part of their initiation into the society.

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As seen from Google Maps.

Part of the  Thousand Islands, Deer Island is situated between mainland Canada and the United States, owned entirely by the Russell Trust Association.

It is rumoured that the remains of the Apache Chief Geronimo are housed on Skull Island who died of pneumonia 17 February 1909, at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.  Allegedly, grave robbers that were members of this secret Yale University Fraternity at the time, including Prescott Bush, father and grandfather of two Presidents of the United States, stole the skull and bones of Geronimo.


President Bush shown as part of the Skull and Bones Society.

The island of the Skull and Bones society has seemingly fallen into disrepair, most of its opulent buildings having been burned to the ground with its tennis courts lying abandoned and overgrown like something from the Great Gatsby.

Despite its decline, the island is still part of the Skull and Bones Society, and will continue to operate as a retreat for the Bonesmen, its mandate and operations shrouded in secrecy as they have been for over 150 years.

Andrew King, August 2017




Checking Out The Lost Mid-Century Motels Of Ottawa

Being the Nation’s Capital, Ottawa has never been a stranger to tourists during the summer months, even more so this year being Canada’s 150th. Droves of out-of-towners eager to take in the sights and sounds of Ottawa’s attractions have been coming here and resting their heads in hotels and inns over the many years Ottawa has been the capital city.

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An accommodation phenomena called the “Motor-Inn” or “motel” was a hotel designed especially for these tourists arriving by car with a parking area for their motor vehicles. The word “MOTEL” entered the dictionary during World War II, defined as a hotel consisting of a single building of connected rooms whose doors faced a parking lot and in some circumstances, a common area or a series of small cabins with common parking.

As more and more tourists flocked to Ottawa during the summer months, motels began to spring up across the city providing easily accessible overnight accommodation sites close to the main highways. These motels were most popular in the 1960s with growing car travel, but they later fell into disparity as major freeways re-routed tourists from the city’s main streets.

Here in Ottawa, they were many motels but sadly most are now long gone, and any surviving ones have been horribly transformed into grotesque skeletons of their former selves. Today, there are a few hidden clues to indicate the illustrious mid-century architecture of these once unique motels.

Let’s go back in time and check in to these cool lost motels…


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A classic mid-century modern design of this Montreal Road motel. (Image: postcard)


A recent street view shows the once classic design has been lost. (Image: GoogleMaps)

Located at 333 Montreal Road, this amazing original motel once boasted “radios and televisions” in each room. There was also air conditioning, and “large ceramic tiled bathrooms” along with a swimming pool.

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The original interior of the Motel DeVille showing off its awesome mid-century decor. (image: postcard)


A photo from the website of the current motel shows the same furniture in place. 

The very mi-century modern deign of the original motel featured the cantilevered roof over the lobby and a very eye catching sign. This motel later changed into the “Concorde Motel”, and its unique overhang was chopped off and any indication of its original form was lost. The Concorde still exists today, and its website photos reveal it still contains the original bed frames as seen in the 1960’s postcard of the old Motel DeVille. You can cruise by and check out this cool old motel that looks different from the outside and visit their website that shows really not much has changed inside. Props to them for maintaining this unique motel’s past!


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The White House Motel, complete with cool neon sign out from on Carling Avenue. (image: ( postcard)

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Google Streetview reveals the abandoned buffet restaurant that occupies the former White House Motel space. 

Perhaps copying the capital city to the south of us, Ottawa had its own “White House” in the form of the motel at 2583 Carling Ave. Boasting heated rooms all year round as well as being one of the finest motels in the Ottawa Area, this classic motel was located next to Lincoln Fields where an All-You-Can-Eat Chinese Buffet was also once located.

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It seems the White House crumbled and is now just an abandoned building soon to become a Self-Storage facility. We will keep an eye on the other White House to see if it suffers the same fate as Ottawa’s White House.


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The Butler Motor Hotel had an incredible sign out front and equally impressive mid-century architecture. (image: postcard)


The current streeview of the once glorious Butler Motel that is now the Ottawa Plaza Inn. Any indication of its grand mid-century design has been completely obliterated with a “modern” facelift. Classic Ottawa to erase any signs of mid-century design. 

Once having a posh butler cartoon character to welcome guests, the Butler Motor Hotel has been so horribly modified from its original form that you may not recognize it as one of the finest motels in Ottawa complete with a lounge in the basement, “The Coachman” that hosted musical acts in its 1960s heyday. Today, the Ottawa Plaza Inn reveals little of its mid-century past.

Many More…

The above three motels are but a snippet of the many motels that once graced Ottawa’s streets, a lost form of accommodation for tourists to the city. I often wonder what it would be like if Ottawa followed California’s Palm Springs lead in preserving their mid-century modernist motel and commercial architecture, attracting fans not only of the city’s tourist attractions, but also the unique commercial architecture we once had.


Andrew King, July 2017


Google Maps




The Deserted Stone Quarry Of Canada’s Parliament Buildings

For over a hundred years Canada’s parliament buildings have weathered the sands of time, pollution, salt and seismic activity, standing firm as the seat of this country’s government. Destroyed by fire in 1916, the original 1859 parliament buildings were rebuilt in 1916 using Canada’s finest building stones. But where did these stones actually come from? Hidden from view off the 417, with thousands of people unknowingly passing it each day, there lies a lost quarry, overgrown and forgotten, where Canada’s parliament buildings were born.


Canada’s Parliament Buildings were made from stone quarried west of Ottawa, near Bells Corners. (photo: Wikipedia)


When the original 1859 parliament buildings were destroyed by fire in 1916, work began almost immediately on re-building them using what was considered to be Canada’s finest building stones. This stone was called Nepean Sandstone, and came from, as the name suggests, the Township of Nepean here in Ottawa. Nepean Sandstone is a mid-to-late Cambrian age rock found to the west of Ottawa near Bells Corners. Many of us drive over it on that ridge between Moodie Drive and Kanata, its outcroppings visible along the side of the 417. It is a well-cemented sandstone of nearly pure quartz, and was used to not only build the 1916 parliament buildings in Ottawa, but also the Museum of Nature, the Royal Canadian Mint and the Dominion Observatory. Stone from this quarry also provided the blocks needed to build Langevin Building (recently re-named the Office of the Prime Minister and the Privy Council) and the old Nepean Town Hall in Westboro.

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The quarried Nepean sandstone was also used to build a number of Ottawa’s prominent buildings, like the Dominion Observatory.

From GeoScience Canada Volume 28, Number 1, 2001, it is quoted that the owner of the quarry received a shocking contract in 1916, and the demands for his special stone were high and the task of getting the stone to downtown Ottawa was gruelling:

“Our first order came from Peter Lyall Construction Company for 1,000 tons of sandstone all for the Parliament Buildings. When we got the parliament job there were several hundred men on the job and they just gobbled up the stone. We couldn’t get the stone out fast enough …Stone was hauled up to the building site by teams of horses, struggling along poor roads with six- ton loads. Each team could make but one trip a day.”


Canada’s parliament buildings under construction after being destroyed in 1916. Note the piles of stone that came from the forest quarry near Bells Corners. (photo: Library and Archives Canada)

In order to fulfill his duties of providing the parliamentary stone, the quarry owner brought in extra quarrymen and stone cutters from Scotland. The stonemasons carved out of the rocks near Bells Corners all the stone for the Centre Block and the Peace Tower. The quarry continued operation under various owners until 1962, when it was  expropriated by the NCC where it remains forgotten and overgrown to this day.

But where exactly did this special stone come from? Nepean Sandstone means it came from Nepean, but where exactly? Finding a government document from 1964 called  “ONTARIO DEPARTMENT OF MINES BUILDING STONES OF ONTARIO PART IV: SANDSTONE” there is listed on page 17 a mention that Campbell Quarries is where Canada’s parliamentary stone came from. Concession and lot numbers were given, which I matched up to an old map of the area, that marked “WHITE SANDSTONE QUARRY” on the map. This is the quarry where the stone came from, but where is it located today?


This old map indicates a “White Sandstone Quarry” just north of Bells Corners. This is the quarry where our parliamentary stone came from.


After using the old map with the quarry marked on it, and overlaying it with a current Google Map, the rough area where the Parliamentary Stone Quarry was determined.


Overlaying the old map on a current Google Map, the quarry can be pinpointed and its current location determined.

Setting off into the forest, the hidden quarry of Canada’s Parliament Buildings lies just off an NCC bikepath, and mere metres away from the bustling 417 highway. With camera in hand, I took to the forest and soon uncovered the overgrown remains of what was once a busy quarry site that provided Canada with its important building blocks for our Parliament.

Please enjoy the photos below which document this important piece of Ottawa, and Canada’s history, on this 150th Anniversary of our nation.

Walking through the dense forest, one quickly stumbles upon the overgrown remains of the over 100 year old quarry where the stone for Canada’s Parliament came from.


It is clearly visible where the stonemasons over a hundred years ago carved out the stone needed for construction of the Parliament Buildings.


Piles of unused cut stones litter the forest floor.


The Nepean Sandstone beds can be seen on the surface, from which the stonemasons extracted the parliamentary stone.


This stone looks like it was being worked on with straight edges before being abandoned.


Piles and piles of unused stones litter the forest floor in this old hidden quarry.


Single large stones are slowly consumed by the growing forest.





Part of the cliff where the stone was cut from.




Worked over large stone.



Quietly forgotten on NCC property, the quarry of Canada’s Parliamentary Buildings, and many other distinct buildings in the Nation’s Capital, goes largely unnoticed without a plaque or marker to indicate its significance.


Andrew King, June 2017



GeoScience Canada, Volume 28, Number 1, 2001, “Building Stones Of Canada’s Federal Parliament Buildings”, D.E. Lawrence.


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A 1930 Ottawa Journal newspaper cites the discovery of the mysterious Planet X

In 1924 an event occurred at Dominion Observatory off Carling Avenue that played an instrumental role in what would later be the discovery of the dwarf planet Pluto. Now quietly hidden off Carling Avenue, this stately old Observatory once sat on the outskirts of the city, far away from the bright lights of downtown Ottawa. Its huge copper dome once retracted to reveal a giant telescope that scanned the heavens for new planets.


One of the outbuildings at the observatory that once housed a telescope. (photo: Wikipedia)

Looking like some lost relic from a Jules Verne novel, this unique Ottawa building played a pivotal role in history when two astronomers stationed at our Observatory accidentally discovered what would be later known as Planet X, or as some call it, the DOOMSDAY PLANET.


Scanning an old newspaper article from a 1930 Ottawa Journal, a curious headline appeared that stated:

“Pluto’s major role had its setting in the Dominion observatory at Ottawa”

This piqued my interest, and through further research it seems Ottawa’s old Observatory was part of a curious investigation known in astronomy circles as “The Ottawa Object”.

Rewinding the clocks a bit further back to the 1880s, Ottawa had a small observatory in a shack on the Ottawa River where the Supreme Court is now, but in 1902, it was decided that Canada needed a more substantial observatory to study the heavens.

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Ottawa’s Dominion Observatory off Carling Ave. circa 1905. (photo

Chief Dominion Architect of the time, David Ewart, designed the Dominion Observatory and this grand building was constructed near Dow’s Lake on the Agriculture Department’s Central Experimental Farm. A Romanesque Revival building with exquisite details and a huge copper retractable dome, it was completed in 1905 utilizing a 15-inch refracting telescope, the largest of its kind in Canada. (the telescope is now with the Museum of Science and Technology, moved there when the Observatory closed in 1970)

One night in 1924, two astronomers working at the Observatory, Francois Henroteau and  a Miss Burland discovered a mysterious new planet that would be dubbed “PLANET X”. It wouldn’t be until 1930 that their discovery was publicized. (SIDENOTE: It was stated by the Canadian Astronomical Society that Burland became the first woman in the Canadian government service to wear pants on the job because she was observing the stars for long hours in Ottawa’s cold winters.)

Also termed the ‘Ottawa object,’ it was reported on April 22, 1930, during the discovery of Pluto. The Ottawa Observatory director at the time, R. M. Stewart, announced that the mysterious object had been found during a search for pre-discovery observations of Pluto by Henroteau and Miss Burland on photo plates taken here in Ottawa in 1924. The Director remarked the orbit of the unusual object was uncertain.

‘The “Ottawa Object” plates were lost, and as of 1979 nothing more concerning this unusual celestial object has been reported. Until now.

Other than the missing Ottawa photo plates from 1924 that apparently showed Planet X, there has been no further proof of its existence.  But now with the use of infrared and radio equipment, astronomers are now returning to the 1924 Ottawa Object and say a Neptune-sized planet does indeed exist in the outer limits beyond Pluto.

In 2016 two scientists came forward with evidence that an unseen object similar in size to Neptune orbits the sun every 15,000 years. They say 4.5 million years ago the giant planet was knocked out of the planet-forming region near the sun, but it settled into a  distant elliptical orbit, where it may again return into our solar system, smashing into Earth or coming close to it.

The re-discovered “Ottawa Object” or Planet X was found by Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, California, From an excerpt in Science Magazine the two are confidently quoted as saying:  ‘We have evidence for Planet X…Why is this different? This is different because this time we’re right.

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A 15 inch telescope like the one that was at the Ottawa Observatory. (photo: Royal Astronomical Society)

This new evidence would support the doomsday scenario of Planet X, also known to some as “Nibiru”, the lost planet. The Nibiru cataclysm belief claims to be a disastrous encounter between the Earth and this rogue planet that takes place in the early 21st century. That would be about now I guess.

I highly recommend checking out this wonderful old observatory and its little outbuildings, they are amazing pieces of Canada’s astronomical past, and sit like stoic sentinels on the grounds of the Experimental Farm. Now with new astronomical evidence pointing towards the fact this Planet X may exist, it remains a remarkable possibility that Ottawa first discovered it, and maybe our imminent demise almost one hundred years ago.

Andrew King, May 2017