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  Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada

Volume 5: Number 05


Vol. 5, No. 05
May 2003 - mai 2003

Fire Training at Louisbourg

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The fireperson/watch staff recently held the annual in-house training on structural and forest fire procedures. This is done over a 3 day time frame and keeps the watchpersons up to date with the equipment and any new regulations. Can you spot the newest watchperson???

Marcel Desilets

Marcel Desilets from the Winnipeg Service Centre was in Louisbourg this past month to discuss conservation of the Postern Tunnel, Lighthouse Ruins and Outer Defences as well as looking at the Princess Demi Bastion and reconstruction in general.

Marcel has been here several times in the past and is very familiar with the Site.

Law Enforcement Plan

The Law Enforcement Plans for National Historic Sites and National Parks in the Cape Breton Field Unit have been submitted. We have received initial comments from the Review Committee and have responded to them and now awaiting further instructions.

Many thanks to all the employees who worked on these plans - there were many hours spent preparing them.

AGB News

Letter Books, Thursday, May 25th, 1899 (Alexander Graham Bell to his wife Mabel)

...I wish I could typewrite my letters to you - but perhaps you have not as much difficulty in deciphering handwriting as I have. I would far rather have your letter in typewritten form - although sentimental reasons give individuality to manuscript - and therefore personal value. I like to see your handwriting occasionally - but - oh! - the comfort of understanding your letters without effort. The days of handwriting have gone forever. They belong to the 19th century. The 20th century will not tolerate manuscript. Still - my dear - just let me have a little P.S. occasionally in your own handwriting - just to comfort me and let me know that it really is you.

Your own,


New Name for Historic Site

The new name for the former Grassy Island National Historic Site of Canada has been confirmed as Canso Islands National Historic Site of Canada, of which Grassy Island Fort National Historic Site is a part.

Both Canso Islands and Marconi National Historic Sites of Canada open on June 1st from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily until September 15th. Staffing preparations are underway.

Fam Tours

FAM Tours have started and so far at AGBNHSC we have familiarized a group of motorcoach company operators from Canada and the US, and provincial and CBI travel counsellors. We are looking forward to welcoming travel writers from Germany next week.

Renovations at AGB include a much improved light system for Mr. Bell Theatre utilizing "green" lighting which should reduce the power bill. While not actually green light, the light meets standards for ideal light conditions in a classroom - a welcome improvement to the theatre which really serves as a multi-purpose room. "We have enhanced the available light and reduced the wattage," says Dan Kaiser. "We are doing our bit for reducing greenhouse emissions."

Special Visitor

Dr. J. Trythall, a recent visitor to AGBNHSC, was in the area to attend a wedding of friends. She was delighted the event took place in the village of Baddeck because she lives in the Covesea/Elgin area of Scotland where Alexander and Mabel ‘honeymooned’ in 1877.

Very active in her community, Dr. Trythall has a great passion for its history. In 2000 and 2001, she gave public talks on AGB and the Covesea/Elgin connection saying, "...I have an empathy with anyone who thinks highly of Covesea - as did AGB, who brought his 18 year old bride (Mabel Gardiner Hubbard, 10 years his junior) here on honeymoon."

She gave copies of her lectures to our Site and some overheads including 1877 newspaper clippings highlighting Bell’s stay in the area. Although honeymooning, he made time to promote the telephone which, like any new product, needed promoting if it was to "catch on". She also provided clippings of Bell’s return visit to Elgin in November 1920. As a young man, and prior to his move to North America, Bell taught at the Weston School in Elgin.

Charlotte Gray

We would like to share with you the observations of author Charlotte Gray who is presently delighting in our archival collections’ primary resource material.

Charlotte Gray is the Ottawa-based author of three best-selling biographies, including "Sisters in the Wilderness" (1999) which has been made into a docudrama by CBC and will be broadcast next winter. Her most recent book is "Flint & Feather; The Life and Times of E. Pauline Johnson, Tekahionwake." Charlotte has just begun research for "Mr. and Mrs. Bell; Portrait of a Marriage," to be published in 2006.

Where do I begin? As I open the tall cupboards in the library of the Alexander Graham Bell Museum, and look at shelf after shelf of neatly-labelled 3-ring binders, I am filled with both exhilaration and trepidation. Every biographer craves vast amounts of primary material, but 323 volumes of assorted correspondence, lab notes, home notes and recollections is an embarrassment of riches.

But then the biographer’s instinct takes over. I open the first volume I plan to read, and I am immediately engrossed in the Bell story. Alexander Graham Bell’s remarkable curiosity and energy; Mabel Hubbard Bell’s humour and quiet efficiency; the affection in which they were held by friends and relatives – they pour off the pages, along with the kind of quotidian details of lives lived a century ago that will bring them into focus.

The Bell story offers me an additional bonus at this, the research stage. Archival work for my previous books involved sifting through the catalogue of the National Archives of Canada in Ottawa, or in various university libraries, far removed from where my subject lived. There are two sets of Bell papers: the originals in the Library of Congress in Washington, and copies held here in Baddeck.

After my first, exploratory visit to Baddeck, I was bitten by the Bell bug. Echoing Mr. Bell, I wondered why anyone would fight their way through the suffocating crowds, heat and noise of the American capital, when they could be in Cape Breton? It was a powerful bug, given that my first visit was in December and a blizzard nearly kept me here till February. The welcome I was given by the museum staff had a lot to do with it.

Now I am back, in late May. As I walk to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum from the car park, I can see the water sparkling on the lake and Beinn Bhreagh perched on its headland. As I enter the Museum, a large photograph of Mr. Bell, bearded and benevolent, greets me. I know that around the corner is a similar photograph of a long-skirted Mabel Bell, with her characteristic expression that is both girlish and maternal. Here I can not only delve back into their remarkable relationship through their years of correspondence: I can feel their presence and see their beloved landscape with my own eyes.

Getting to know our Parks

Riel House National Historic Site

Riel House was occupied by the Riel family until 1969. Parks Canada purchased the property in 1970 and restored it to its 1886 appearance. This house commemorates more than just one man and one family; it represents the Metis people who were born of the fur trade, became a united nation behind their leader, Louis Riel, and whose culture remains a significant and vibrant force in Manitoba and throughout Canada.

Louis Riel was born in Saint Boniface in 1844 and was educated in Montreal. He returned to the Red River Settlement in 1868 to find the community anxious and divided over its political future. Canada was in the process of negotiating the purchase of the Hudson’s Bay Company territories, known as Rupert’s Land, without any consideration being given to the wishes or rights of its inhabitants. The Métis were suspicious that the Canadian government intended to force them off the land that they had occupied for generations. This conflict heightened in the fall of 1869 when surveyors from Canada entered the southern part of the Settlement and seemed to confirm the fears of the Métis. Louis Riel and 15 others stopped the surveying and blocked the Pembina Trail-the-route north from the American border.They went on to seize Upper Fort Garry, the Hudson’s Bay Company trading post and centre of authority. A provisional government was formed with John Bruce and then Louis Riel as its head. While the Métis militia protected the Settlement from Canadian annexation, Father Noel-Joseph Ritchot negotiated Manitoba’s entry into Canada. Although most of the Métis rights were negotiated, Louis Riel was not granted amnesty and was forced into exile. Riel moved to the United States but returned to Canada in 1884 to once again lead his people in the defence of their land and political rights. In 1885 the Métis were defeated by Canadian troops at Batoche in Saskatchewan. Riel turned himself into authorities and pleaded his cause and that of his people during his trial.

Nonetheless, he was found guilty of treason and executed in Regina in November 1885.

Louis Riel was accorded the status of a Founding Father of Manitoba in 1992 by the Province in recognition of his role in bringing the province into Canada

De la Valliere House

There will be an addition to the De la Valliere bedroom this summer. It will consist of toilette which is a table with a linen covering, boxes for ribbons and a mirror. This set was copied from the original objects in the Curatorial Collection. The pieces were crafted by John Ward and Jim MacIsaac of the Artisan Shop here at Louisbourg. The linens were made by Maureen Burke of the Volunteer Association. Ruby Powell of the Curatorial Unit managed the project.

 If you would like to make a submission to the Hear Ye! Hear Ye! Newsletter, please send information to Donna MacNeil at, or phone 733-3551.

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