Here we are starting a series of photos of Rawdon dating back to the turn of the 20th century. Many buildings are still in existence, some changed dramatically. Unfortunately, many more have fallen victim to the wrecking ball. How many can you recognize?

The Barracks This building was originally the military barracks in Rawdon. In 1916 when this photo was taken it was being used by the Presbyterian Church. The history of the barracks is somewhat murky. There seems to be little or no documentation to confirm local lore. What is known is the building, the oldest building remaining in Rawdon, was originally built to house the local militia. One story suggests it was moved from Rev. Burton’s lot down on the 1st range to its present site on Church Street. This is rather doubtful. What is certain is there was a militia in Rawdon active until at least after 1856. Sleeping quarters were in the basement and the ground floor was used for drill and training exercises. Downstairs there was also a cell to contain unruly soldiers or captives detained for correction or punishment. One story tells of an event in 1856 when a huge bonfire was lit near the barracks to celebrate the news of a treaty having been signed to end the Crimean War. It was so large it could be seen for miles around and settlers, fearing the whole village was on fire, came rushing to the scene with every conveynce available, oxen, horse and foot.

This photo of a militia review from the archives of an old Rawdon family is possibly the Rawdon unit. These two gallant lads are Copping boys and members of the Rawdon militia. George Copping’s sons served alternately, one or two attending at a time. Thomas, Henry and James were on duty in 1837 - 38 as George mentions their absence from the farm in his journal. He also mentions their being sent to Montreal and his anxiety about their safety. He was greatly relieved when they returned unscathed. Click here: Diary of George Copping for 1838 There were two older brothers, married and living in their own homes, who possibly served their time, as well. All able bodied men, with the exception of doctors, priests, etc. were expected to serve. When the local militia was disbanded sometime after 1856, the building was used as a community centre.

In an article written by Nurse Daly and published in The Rawdon News Bulletin in 1958 she tells of an event held at the old barracks: Rawdon was predominately an Irish settlement and Jenny McGarry, a world renown Irish songstress, came to visit some of her family in Rawdon. Jenny’s friends and family pressed her to give a concert for the locals. This historic event was held in the barracks. Jenny McGarry, who had been commissioned to sing for Queen Victoria gave a concert here in Rawdon! Incidently, this is the same McGarry family known for its breakfast sausages.

The Presbyterian Church which, to that time, had no house of worship, used the building for services when the military left. They established a grave yard behind the church which, though sadly neglected, still has a few remaining gravestones. Click here: Silver Birches . At the turn of the century a new United Church was built on 4th Avenue and the Plymouth Brethren moved into the old Presbyterian Church. In 1917 the property was bought by the Reverend Dr. & Mrs. R E Walsh to be used as a private residence. Miss McCallum bought the property from the Welsh’s to use as a guest house. In 1953 she sold it to a couple from the Shawinigan, Major & Mrs. Bannard. Mrs. Bannard was originally from Alabama. They officially named the place Silver Birches and not only ran a guest house but offered, on reservation, southern cooking. It was said that her southern fried chicken even had a southern drawl. Today this would not seem anything out of the ordinary, but in Rawdon in 1953 southern style cooking was a rather exotic concept. Soon it was the height of fashion in Rawdon to celebrate weddings, anniversaries, etc. at Silver Birches. Since the Bannards time, Silver Birches has changed not only hands, but vocation. It became and remains a home for facilitated living. The name has been translated to the French, Bouleaux Argentes. The sign offers “room and board”.

rawdon barracks-1912
Silver Birches Rawdon

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