If you look around, there are signs everywhere but sadly, not many people stop and read them.
I do, I always have. I’m not sure if it’s the historian in me, or just an innate curiousity–I figure if someone thought it was important enough to erect a sign in a certain place, then it’s worth reading. It’s a trait that drives my family crazy.
On Friday, I went for my usual pre-game walk in Carleton Place before Clare’s hockey game. I was familiar with Carleton Place because Clare had competed in regattas there many times, but the arena was in a different part of town.
I started walking on a section of the Trans Canada Trail and came across a bridge that spanned the Mississippi River. There were several interpretive signs on the bridge, so I stopped to read them. Directly across from me was another bridge named Gillies Bridge in honour of John Gillies who built it in 1884.
John Gillies was the name of my father. Not the same John Gillies who built the bridge, and no relation to my knowledge, but it immediately caught my interest.
According to the Lanark County tourism website, lumber was king in the Ottawa Valley in the nineteenth century and John Gillies “was one of the industry’s crown princes”. He acquired the first sawmill in Carleton Place in 1866 and built the operation to employ 200-300 men to produce more than 20 million feet of board lumber a year. His mills eventually covered 300 square miles and spanned the greater part of six townships.
His Gillies Machine Works was his retirement project. After selling his mill operation, he built the Machine Works in 1875, manufacturing steam engines, water wheels, gearing, shafting and boat engines.
I thought this was ironic given Dave’s and mine luck with boat motors.
I stopped to admire the old abandoned millworks on the island, and then kept strolling, taking pictures of the old stone buildings since it was such a gorgeous sunny morning.
It was interesting to read about this famous namesake, and in a strange way, made me feel closer to my Dad, who has been gone for more than 20 years.
This week’s #HappyAct is to stop and read the signs some time. You never know what you’ll discover.