EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Saturday, May 9, 2015

Mechanics Institute an 'elaborate structure' built in 1890 included Chapleau public library and town hall

The Mechanics Institute in Chapleau was built in 1890 on land provided by the Canadian Pacific Railway across from the present Bridgeview Hotel on Birch Street.

According to Wikepedia, mechanics' institutes,  the first one established in Edinburgh, Scotland  contained inspirational and vocational reading matter, for a small rental fee. Later popular non-fiction and fiction books were added to these collections in the library section. Other services were also provided.

The Mechanics Institute was a described as an "elaborate structure", for the times and included the library, a reading room, a hall and space for oganizations to meet in a two-storey building. By the end of 1890, the library had 178 members and 894 volumes. 

Imagine, it  cost $621.02 to build. Perhaps someone can examine the photos and give us an estimated cost to build a similar building in 2015.

By 1895, ladies had become active members,and in 1899 when J.B. Dexter was president of the institute 200 new books were purchased bringing the total number of volumes to 1408 of which 1201 were taken out over the previous year.

The Canadian Encyclopedia says that the institutes began as voluntary associations of working men seeking self improvement through education.

However, the Canadian Encyclopedia adds that "Despite the name, the central figures who developed the Mechanics' Institutes in Canada were rarely manual workers. Rather, the institutes were controlled by shopkeepers, doctors, ministers and small manufacturers who sought activities for themselves, and more importantly, the growing number of urban wage-earners."

They did reflect important features of 19th-century Canada: the constant anxiety of local leaders about social order and stability; the widespread hope of self-improvement through education; and the increasing popular thirst for reading material", according to the Canadian Enyclopedia.

In 1895, Beresford Greatheed, aka Greathead visited Chapleau on his walking tour across Canada from Vancouver to Halifax and visited the institute, according to the Sudbury Journal.

Although Chapleau had about 500 residents when Greatheed visited, he called it a city, and commented that it had "fine churches, CPR shops, three hotels, three or four good stores and numerous fine dwelling houses."

He paid particular attention to the Mechanics Institute, "a fine building erected in 1890 and has a hall where 300 persons could easily be seated - membership is 250 and each member paying $2 per annum. Upstairs is occupied by various fraternal societies such as the Freemasons, Oddfellows. Knights of Pythians, Forresters, etc.

"A fine library exists here and most of the principal journals, magazines are ready for use of membership up until 10 p.m.." he said.

The building also housed the first Chapleau Town Hall from 1901 when the municipality was incorporated with G.B. Nicholson as the first reeve. However, disaster struck in 1910 when it burned down and all the library holdings as well as municipal records were destroyed.  

A new Town Hall was officially opened on December 30, 1913, which appears to have been done while Mr. Nicholson was still reeve. He was retiring after serving since 1901, always returned to office by acclamation. Chapleau's second reeve was T.J. Godfrey.

Information from Wikipedia, Canadian Encyclopedia, Sudbury Journal, George Evans, Vince Crichton (Pioneering in Northern Ontario), Doug Greig, Michael McMullen

My email is mj.morris@live.ca 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Hole–y Bible

By Rev. Yme Woensdregt

One of the blogs I peruse regularly is called God’s Politics. It comes from the Sojourners community, which was organized in the early 1970’s in an inner–city neighbourhood in Washington DC. Led by Jim Wallis, this ministry focuses on the relationship between Christian faith and social and economic justice. Their mission is to “articulate the biblical call to social justice, inspiring hope and building a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.”
Jim Wallis writes that “One of our first activities was to find every verse of scripture about the poor, wealth and poverty, and social justice. We found more than 2,000 texts that we then cut out of an old Bible. We were left with a ‘Bible full of holes’ which I used to take out with me to preach.”
A Bible full of holes. That’s what you get when you take social justice and economic issues out of the Bible. A hole–y Bible. Christian faith cares intensely about social justice issues in our world. Those who claim that Christianity is a private faith simply haven’t read their Bible. Let me give just a few examples.
After learning she is to bear Jesus in her womb, Mary sings the Magnificat, which includes these lines “God has brought down the powerful from their thrones, and lifted up the lowly; he has filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty.” It echoes the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2—“ He raises up the poor from the dust; he lifts the needy from the ash heap, to make them sit with princes and inherit a seat of honour.”
Near the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus tells a parable in which the righteous and the unrighteous are judged on this basis: “I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Both the righteous and unrighteous are surprised by this judgment. When did we do this, or not do this? Jesus’ response is that “as you did it (or didn’t do it) to one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did it to me.”
Israel’s prophets also thundered against the rich. In words that Martin Luther King, Jr would often use, Amos preached “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever–flowing stream.”
Isaiah puts a rhetorical question in God’s mouth: “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?”
I could go on and on. Just a few weeks ago, I discovered an interactive tool online which allows us to see how frequently a word is used in scripture. “Poor” and “poverty” appear 446 times in 384 separate verses. “Wealth” can be found 1,453 times. “Justice” appears 1,576 times.
On the other hand, “hell” only appears 237 times. “Heaven” shows up 771 times and such an important concept as “love” only 654 times. “Family values” or “believing Jesus is my personal Saviour” doesn’t appear at all.
“Justice” is mentioned twice as many times as “love” or “heaven”, and seven times more often than “hell”. Isn’t that interesting? It seems obvious that justice is a pretty big deal to God.
I’m inspired when I see movements which bring social justice to the fore. In a land of plenty such as Canada and the US, it’s a moral outrage that the gap between rich and poor is widening
at an increasing rate. The richest 1% in the US, for example, now pocket nearly 25% of the nation’s income, and control more than 50% of the total wealth. At the same time, the number of homeless people increases alarmingly.
Justice issues are at the heart of Christian faith. Followers of Jesus are called to help end extreme poverty, combat greed, build a more equitable economy at home and abroad, eradicate malaria and other imminently curable diseases from the world, and heal the environment. Our faith is intensely this–worldly, loving the world with the same passion as God.
If one is to believe the Bible, this is what is in the heart of God. Or perhaps you’d rather read a hole–y Bible?

Rev Yme Woensdregt is Incumbent at Christ Church Anglican in Cranbrook BC

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


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Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE