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Forgotten Memories of the Ottawa Valley



Submitted by Marc Audet

Marc Audet, 2021 February 15

Forgotten Memories of the Ottawa Valley is a unique folk/folklore show that takes you on a historical musical tour of the Ottawa Valley. After an ode to early travellers of the Ottawa River, the tour takes you to the district of North Renfrew, where the heritage is celebrated with songs about depot farms, flooded villages, taken lands, frontier roads, and a prison break in Algonquin Park. The tour then traverses the Valley to Combermere (the 1912 sinking of the Mayflower), then to Baptist Church Road and Newfoundout along the Opeongo Settlement Road, and then a stop in Westmeath for a song about an antique trunk with a mysterious connection to Mt. Everest mountaineer A.C. Irvine who died in 1924 on an Everest summit quest. All true Canadian stories. Not to be forgotten.

The show is the creation of Ottawa Valley singer/songwriter Marc Audet (www.marcaudetmusic.com). Marc’s writings of historic events and past ways of life were inspired by visiting and exploring the crumbling remains of logging camps, depot farms and wagon roads located throughout the Valley. For Marc, these ruins project inspiration and they would soon be lost to the forests, if it weren’t for Marc’s effort to put these stories to song. Initial reviews of this 2 hour, 2 set show have been very favorable, revealing a keen interest among followers in storytelling and historical songwriting. At some shows, descendants of the people portrayed in the songs have spoken up, adding details and context to the stories. Interspersed with the songs of historical interest, are other songs written by Marc Audet, speaking to life experiences. The live version of the show ends with a classical Mac Beatie song “This Ottawa Valley of Mine”.

Recording and Distribution

The first set of this show was recorded in 2020 September. Videos of the 7 songs of the first set were created and uploaded to YouTube on 2021 February 15 (see links below). Audio-only recordings with introductory narration (story telling) have been uploaded onto my website Marc Audet Music and to the NCCRAs (National Campus and Community Radio Association) Community Radio Exchange, where the show is available for broadcast on interested community radio stations across Canada. Audio-only recordings without narration (songs only) have been uploaded into Bandcamp for free download to everyone. The hope is that many people across Canada will take an interest in learning and experiencing the history and heritage of the Ottawa Valley made available from this recording project.

Distribution includes making the video collection available to seniors homes and care facilities where residences can be entertained in a covid-safe manner.

The second set of the show will be recorded in the spring or summer, with distribution happening thereafter.

Song Discology

  1. Another Chance –an introspective song about somehow going back in time to make life decisions a second time, if that was somehow possible. This romantic folk song is intended to put your mind at ease, and to prepare you for a journey back in time to visit places and times concerning the settlement and development of the Ottawa Valley.
  2. la Riviere – the story of early travelers along the Ottawa River, starting with Indigenous People thousands of years ago, followed by European fur traders (coureurs des bois and Voyageurs), then men of the logging and river drive era. The song was inspired, in part, by gravestone carvings in bedrock at Slate Falls on the Madawaska River, where the names of river drivers that drowned in the river at the treacherous falls are carved into the bedrock (e.g., Joseph Bruelard 1881).
  3. Half Way There – the story of a depot farm and stopping place on a tote road that accessed logging camps in Algonquin Park. Xavier Pilon established his farm “Halfway House” in the late 1800s, growing food for the lumber camps and making repairs to sleighs and wagons that traveled the tote roads for decades. Shown on the oldest Algonquin Park maps, this was a very busy place for decades, but now it a secluded peaceful place with the old fields slowly growing in. Rhubarb plants still thrive on the old farm. This remote depot farm was one of many throughout the region. The story of the logging in Canada starts in the early 1800s with England being in conflict with France.
  4. Holden Pond – the story of hydroelectric power and how the development of this resource affected settlements and communities located along the Ottawa River. Settlement in the Upper Ottawa Valley started in the early 1800s, with the land being cleared hand tools and horses. For decades, the pace of life included trains, steamboats and horse drawn wagons. In the late 1940s, residents watched the reservoir lake Holden Lake slowly engulf the landscape that was home to them.
  5. Not Forgotten – the story of land expropriation in the 1900s as industrialization came to the Ottawa Valley, and in this case Garrison Petawawa and the nuclear research laboratory at Chalk River. Folks that settled in the 1800s cleared the land and built their homesteads by hand. Decades later, they were forced to move to make room for industry.
  6. Battle Hill – the story of early over-land transportation, starting with wagon roads. The arrival of automobiles in the early 1900s quickly lead to the need to establish more reliable roadways, and the development of the King’s Highways in Ontario. Battle Hill, a location marked on older topographic maps, is the story of land surveyors in the 1920s faced with routing Highway 17 through the unforgiving landscape of the Canadian Shield.
  7. North Star – the story of a German pilot from WWII who escaped from a POW (prisoner of war) camp in the remote interior of Algonquin Park (Nipissing River). What is remarkable about this individual is he traveled from the POW camp using only the north star to guide him. He traveled only at night and hid during the daylight hours. After 3 days (nights) he reached the CNR (Canadian National Railway) line, where he hopped onto a slow-moving train that was headed west.
  8. Talk to Me – at many historic sites, all that remains are crumbling ruins with giant pine trees overlooking. The people that settled or lived at these sites are long since passed away, yet those trees remain. This introspective song reflects on this … if only these trees could talk, and reveal all that happened before them.
  9. Mayflower – the story of the 1912 sinking of the Mayflower in Lake Kamineskeg, between Combermere and Barry’s Bay. The sinking occurred during the last run of the year as a November gale beared down on the region. Nine people perished, but 3 survived by clinging to a coffin that was being transported to Combermere. 
  10. Stone Fences – the story of immigration and farm land development in the mid-1800s. There was a dire need for more farming to support the booming logging industry. Settlement roads were crudely built and incentives for immigration were established, drawing people from different areas of Europe. The Opeongo Settlement Roads stretched across the Ottawa Valley, and from this road were plots of land available for immigrants to develop. Those that met the requirements for the incentive earned the title to the land, but not without unimaginable hardship from turning forested stony hills into farmland.
  11. Newfoundout – the story of the plight of the Irish in the 1700s and 1800s, leading to a surge of immigration in the mid-1800s to escape poverty and starvation. As arduous as it would have been to turn the forested, stony hills of the Opeongo Range into farmland, it was far easier to survive (and thrive) with this settlement challenge than to remain in Ireland. 
  12. Trunk of Secrets – the story of an antique trunk bought in Westmeath that used to belong to the famous Everest mountaineer A.C. Irvine who died in his summit attempt in 1924. The song questions how the trunk made its way from England to the farming village of Westmeath.

All true Canadian stories… not to be Forgotten

Marc Audet is a member of SOCAN and Folk Music Ontario. More information on his music and ongoing shows is available on his website www.marcaudetmusic.com and his Facebook page www.facebook.com/marc.audet.singersongwriter.

Where to View or Download Forgotten Memories of the Ottawa Valley

Videos with narration and song

YouTube Channel, (3) Marc Audet – YouTube, and

Marc Audet website, Marc Audet Singer/Songwriter Music (marcaudetmusic.com)

Music with narration and song

Marc Audet Singer/Songwriter website, Marc Audet Singer/Songwriter Music (marcaudetmusic.com)

Music without narration (song only)

Bandcamp (album named Forgotten Memories), FREE download option, Forgotten Memories | Marc Audet (bandcamp.com)