Saturday, June 3, 2017

Travelling Through Time in the Ottawa Valley: June 3, 2017

Our next outing with the Capital Corvette Club was a joint effort with another group, Valley Vettes, a newer club (founded in 2006) with members drawn from the Ottawa Valley region.  The plan was to meet in Balaclava, a ghost town in Renfrew County and then go for lunch at a resort on the Ottawa River.

Our group met up as usual at the Myers Chevrolet dealership in Kanata and we had a pleasant drive first to Almonte for our Tim Hortons coffee stop/bathroom break, and then along back roads to a little park in Calabogie overlooking the lake. where we enjoyed the summer weather.  We were soon back on the road for the short half hour drive to Balaclava, which is located just off of Ontario Highway 132 on Scotch Bush Road.

Balaclava is named after a battle in the Crimean War in 1854, when British, French and Turkish forces engaged with the Russians protecting the port of Sevastapol on the Black Sea.  I am not sure why a town in 1859 in a British colony was named for a battle that was not a British success--it was the venue of the infamous Charge of the Light Brigade.  Also, oddly, the battle has sartorial significance: Lord Raglan was in charge of the operation and, yes, the raglan sleeve is named for him as his tailor came up with the idea since Raglan had lost an arm in military action.  The commander of the Light Brigade was Lord Cardigan, and British officers supposedly wore knitted waistcoats during the war and the name was applied to them.  The balaclava helmet was a knitted garment sent by British ladies to the troops to help them deal with the cold, for which the British Army had incompetently outfitted them, but the name was not applied to the headgear (favoured by Canadian bank robbers) until decades after the Crimean War.

Balaclava, Ontario, was thus founded before Confederation in 1867 and took advantage of a wooden dam built along the eastern outlet of Constant Lake with the construction of a sawmill, probably in 1861, well-supplied with timber from the dense forests in the area.  It became quite a little boomtown and soon had a general store, a blacksmith's shop and two hotels.  A grist mill was constructed further along Constant Creek but this was the cause of a lawsuit as the owners of the sawmill were accused of polluting the creek with sawdust and thereby interfering with the operation of the grist mill.  As a solution, the first sawdust burner in Ontario was installed in 1911.  The sawmill itself burned down in 1915 but was replaced with a new structure that operated until 1959, when it was no longer economical.

In 1927 the timber dam was replaced with a concrete one, and this dam, which was not longer able to control flooding, was replaced by a new structure in 2013.  Balaclava is technically not a ghost town as a few people still live there.  The sawmill still stands, as does the general store.  When we were visiting, a section of the general store building was being torn down.  Otherwise not a whole lot to see--well, except for a lot of Corvettes that day!

After meeting the Valley Vette people and admiring everyone's cars, we got up a convoy and headed to Foresters Falls and the Wilderness Tours Adventure Resort on the Ottawa River.  The resort offers rafting trips, kayaking and even bungee jumping but we passed these up in favour of lunch in the big restaurant.

Our excellent driving trip on a beautiful summer's day concluded with the 90 minute drive home, via Renfrew and Arnprior, paralleling the Ottawa River.

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