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Laying the Cornerstone of the Fenelon Falls Post Office, 1935 (Now CIBC)

March 19, 2023

Laying Cornerstone of the Fenelon Falls Post Office (CIBC), November 1, 1935, photo by JH Stanton

Class was really important to the first generation of British immigrants coming to the Kawarthas, and the status of their community was important too. Buildings were among the most conspicuous symbols of progress, and as some prominent residents built homes that were notable architectural specimens, having beautiful public buildings was a strong source of civic pride. Many of the most prominent buildings were built in the County Town, however, even a village like Fenelon Falls might secure a striking post office. In 1935, after much lobbying, Fenelon Falls managed to persuade the Dominion Government to include their village in the federal building plans. When the cornerstone of the new post office was laid—right at the corner of Colborne and Francis Streets—it was a memorable moment for the village, complete with speeches and parades. At that time, the community reflected on how their Dominion had become basically independent with the Statute of Westminster, passed just four years earlier, and the sacrifices of the Great War, which had led to Canada’s greater autonomy. The post office would symbolize the Canadian nation in Fenelon Falls.

Though beautiful and symbolic, the post office was not necessarily the most practical building. A generation later, a new post office would be constructed on Market Street, which was smaller, less conspicuous, but more functional in terms of delivering letters and parcels. The opening of the second post office was not accompanied by anything like fanfare of 1935.

The original Opening Ceremony of the Fenelon Falls Post Office (1935)

From the Tweedsmuir History of Fenelon Falls, 1968

Under leaden skies which forebore to mar a perfect ceremony, and before a large crowed of spectators the corner-stone of His Majesty’s new Post Office at Fenelon Falls was with due ceremony laid by Mr. T.H. Stinson, K.C. of Lindsay, at 3:30 o’clock on Friday afternoon, November 1st, 1935.

Led by the Salvation Army Band, a parade of students and teachers of public and high schools halted at the corner of Colborne and Francis Streets and were marshalled by C.P. David H. Gordon [village police officer] to position, just as the band struck the chorus of the opening number, “Men of Harlech.”

Speakers included: Mr. Stinson, Reeve A.E. Tiers, Dr. H.B. Johnstone, Messrs. I. Naylor, A.J. Gould, R.C. Webster, Rev. W. Sterling of the United Church, Rev. W.W. Price of the Baptist Church, Rev. W.W. Fleischer of the Baptist Church. Mr. Newman, MLA, and Mr. Bruce McNevin M.P. were listed to speak, but were unable to be present.

A highlight of the day’s ceremonies was the tube sealed in the cornerstone by Reeve Tiers, containing besides a picture of twenty-two octogenarians of the town, a copy of an ancient and unique document, a treasured possession of one of Fenelon Falls’ first citizens, Mr. M.H. McCallum. This is a certificate of appointment of the first Post Master of Fenelon Falls, namely the late William Henry Powles, and grandfather of Messrs. M.H. McCallum and H.H. McCallum, and father of Messrs. J.B. Powles of Powles Corner, and George B. Powles, retired from the teaching staff of McKinley High School, Chicago, who gave the document to its present owner. Mr. Stinson read it aloud, as follows:

Her Majesty’s [Queen Victoria] Postmaster-General having received a good Testimony of the Fidelity and Loyalty to her Majesty of Mr. William Powles, and reposing great trust and confidence in the knowledge, care and ability of the said William Powles to execute the office and duties required of a Deputy Postmaster have deputed, constituted, authorized and appointed, and by these presents, do depute, constitute, authorize and appoint him… the lawful and sufficient deputy, to execute the office of Deputy Postmaster at the aforesaid place, with all and every the Rights, Privileges, Benefits and Advantages, to the same, belonging for, and during the pleasure of the Postmaster General, and also for and during the Pleasure of the Deputy Postmaster-General of the said provinces subject to such conditions, covenants, provisions, payments, orders and instructions to be faithfully observed, performed and done by the said Deputy Postmaster, and servants, as he or they shall from time to time receive from Her Majesty’s Postmaster-General of Canada… for the time being or by the Order of them, or either of them. Given at the Post Office, under my hand and seal of the said Office, this second day of December 1844, in the eighth year of Her Majesty’s Reign. By Command. M. Maberly, Secretary, Lonsdale, England.

Of those twenty-two pioneers, twice honoured, because of their age of eighty years, Mr. Richard C. Webster alone survives. The group are Robert Rutherford, Eli Worsley, Edward English, Benjamin Smith, R.C. Webster, John Copp, Alex. Connell, Henry Pearce, John Sims, Alfred Inkpen, James Dickson, William McKendry, Thomas Robson, William Burgoyne, Nathan Day, George Martin, William Cameron, Charles Haskell, David Logan, James Wagar, William Robson, John T. Thompson.

Mr. A.E. Tiers, reeve of Fenelon Falls, opened the programme. His address: “Ladies and gentlemen, scholars and all: we have gathered today to lay the cornerstone of the new Post Office building, donated to the Corporation by the Dominion Government. There was a small chance of advertising the event, which, until forty-eight hours ago we did not know would transpire today. The cornerstone just arrived this morning. I am proud of the crowd that has gotten together for this special event of Fenelon Falls, and as we have a long programme, I shall take no more time.”

A band selection was given, and Mr. T.H. Stinson, K.C., was introduced as the ‘man who was instrumental in getting the Post Office.’  Mr. Stinson: “I shall thank you at the outset for inviting me here to lay the cornerstone of your Post Office and I am glad to be here to take part in the ceremony. One thing of importance you should know concerning this, is that you acquired it through the intervention of your municipal council members of the Business Men’s Association. It is also, probably your only chance of a life-time to take part in a ceremony of this kind, unless the building be destroyed by fire or from some other cause.

The discussion re the site was, in my opinion, well settled, and while we may differ after the decision was made, the thing to do is to forget and make the most of it. The place that can develop a community spirit is a good place to live in. We can keep one step higher than the community spirit by developing the right lives. Let us go on, keeping in mind that the thing for all to do is to make a success of life, not a mess.

Success? Energy, vision and intelligence, make for success. Let us use them in the best interests of the community, let us use them to make a better country in which we may live. Let us discharge our duties in this world still bent, broken and bleeding after the Great War. Never was help needed as today. Let us do our duty in the best way we know. There is nothing like giving service to the community, our fellow men and country. We should find our proper niche in life just in whatever we are best fitted for. Chauncy Depew asked once, the secret of success, replied: ‘Keeping in mind what you have to do and staying on the job.’ Be of use to your community, the people with whom you came into contact, and to your parents. Let us keep in mind fair play, honest dealing and fair judgement as a legacy of life well-lived in service to others.”

Having read the document referred to, Mr. Stinson, in concluding, expressed pleasure in the fact that Mr. M.W. Brandon, present Postmaster of Fenelon Falls, though unable to assist with the ceremonies, was able to be present. Mr. Morrow, of Woodville, Superintendent of Works on the building and Mr. Mark Fell, a citizen, released the cornerstone from its chains. Reeve Tiers disposed of the tube to be sealed within. Mr. Stinson resumed:

“We worked for two years before we got this post office listed in the building estimates of the Federal Government. The Municipal Council and the Business Men’s Association were assiduous in pressing their claim, with this result. For years I trust you may use it. I trust the design may be attractive to you. I now lay the cornerstone of His Majesty’s Post Office in Fenelon Falls.” The stone was laid.

Mr. J.H. Stanton, local photographer, took a picture of the scene and the Band rendered “O God, Our Help in Ages Past.”

Mr. R.C. Webster was the next speaker called. Mr. Webster expressed much pleasure in being present. “I am the last of the group of ten years go,” he said, “the last of twenty-two. Someone has always to be the last. I supposed I was the last at school always. There is always plenty of room at the foot of the class. It’s always hard to get ahead, easy to make a step down. I feel privileged and honoured to speak at the performance of this laying of the cornerstone of the Post Office. Seventy-four years ago, I came to Fenelon Falls. It was a different place, just pioneer. Great strides have been made. People say what a nice clean beautiful town. On the chief corner of your town you are laying this cornerstone but you should be proud to be a citizen. I thank you for your attention.

Dr. H.B. Johnstone, representing the Municipal Council, spoke. “Improvements are noted by everyone, and much thanks were due the Business Men’s Association. The Post Office has been needed for years and the town is greatly indebted to Mr. Stinson for his efforts to place the Fenelon Falls Post Office in the building estimates. We have one of the cleanest villages in the Province. Tourists are always glad to return for vacation. Those in authority can speak for the health and cleanliness of the village. Infectious diseases are rarely known and not in the last twenty years. We know that all appreciate Mr. Stinson’s efforts in our behalf, as I do, myself. Thank you.

Mr. I. Naylor, representing the School Board, stated: “It is a great pleasure to be here and see the children gathered today in honour of the important event. The Post Office needed for years, has been acquired through the efforts of citizens and Mr. Stinson. The foundation to a good Post Office is laid. We assure Mr. Stinson of our appreciation of his efforts in our behalf. I thank you.”

Mr. A.J. Gould, president of the Businessmen’s Association, acknowledged the words of appreciation re the efforts made for the Post Office, but gave assurance that no reward would have been realized without the co-operation of Mr. Stinson.

Rev. Mr. Sterling stated it was a great pleasure to share in so worthy an event. The community spirit manifest, an element of interest, was a guarantee of success in the life of the community, as well as the nation. “That spirit needs to be cultivated. There is a deep vital need for an intensive Canadianism,” declared the speaker. The ceremony of the laying of the cornerstone of the new Post Office at Fenelon Falls was closed with the singing of God Save the King.

Postscript, 1968:

Thirty-two years have passed and in 1967 a new post-office was erected on Market Street, north of the Cenotaph, which move has not been too popular with the villagers because of the location. The building is of one-storey, red-brick and stone construction, well lighted and commodious for staff and rural drivers.

To date (May 1968) it has not been officially opened although in use since mid-January, nor has the fate of the Old Post Office, corner of Francis and Colborne been made known, but very many are hoping it will be used to meet community needs—probably as a Public Library and for a place of social activities for the Senior Citizens. [It actually became the CIBC]

Mr. Bert Sinclair is the Post Master, Mrs. C. Lightfoot (Aileen), Mrs. L. Moore (Jean), Mrs. R. Jones (Jean) and Mrs. Robertson (Mickey) are the staff.

Earlier Postmasters:

William Powles -1844 1st Appointment

James Fitzgerald, died 1869

Robert Jamieson

Frank Kerr

M.W. Brandon

Charles R. McInnes (retired 1965)

Assistants: Ida Burgess (Mrs. D.R. Jewell)

Misses Mattie, Edith and Alice Quigg

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