Anonymous photo hides clues within
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Aug 02, 2012  |  Vote 0    0

Anonymous photo hides clues within

St. Marys Journal Argus

Mary Smith, Historic St. Marys

The Victoria (Queen Street) Bridge has always been one of the most popular local landmarks to photograph. It’s not surprising that it has been a focal point in this column before.

There are about three dozen examples of historic photographs of this lovely stone bridge on the St. Marys Museum’s online database, Picture St. Marys — all of them a bit different. Today, photographers still enjoy trying to capture personal versions of the view.

This week’s photograph seems be one such attempt. It is pasted into an old photo album in the R. Lorne Eedy Archives at the Museum. The album is part of a donation of material from the late Douglas and Elsie (Willard) Turnbull, whose families have a long history in St. Marys although they themselves spent most of their lives in British Columbia.

The donation includes a number of photographs of St. Marys. Some were taken by the Turnbulls on their regular visits back to Ontario. Older pictures, like this one of the bridge, probably belonged to a parent or other relative. It is unlikely that we will ever discover who took the photograph but it is possible from contextual clues to date it within about a 10-year period.

It must have been taken after 1908 because the dam across the Thames River is visible through the arches of the bridge. The dam was completed in the fall of 1908 to create a larger millpond for the G. Carter Milling Company, whose buildings are on the right side of the photo. The railway cars standing beside the mill are on Canadian Pacific Railway tracks. The CPR line into St. Marys was also completed in 1908 — another reason to date the photograph after this year. In 1921, the largest building in the Carter Mill complex, the five-storey stone structure with its tall chimney, was destroyed by fire.

Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the photograph was taken sometime between 1909 and 1920 or 1921 during a fairly dry summer. No water is going over the dam and many rocks are visible in the riverbed. Of course, some of the water flow would have been diverted into the millrace to run a turbine beside the mill even though steam was the main power source for the flouring operations at that time.

Please visit stmarys/search to see some of the other historic photographs of the Victoria Bridge and the buildings in its vicinity.

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