Morrisburg-area men create online monument to history

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When John Gleed thinks back about the way Morriburg used to look, before the St. Lawrence Seaway and massive flooding, there is one photo that always captures his imagination.

It's a photo of Morriburg's downtown from the early 1950s. It shows a mass of buildings headed east along Main Street. On the right is the Bell Telephone Building, the McNeely drug store and Meikle General Store. To the left is Robert Mattice Grocery Store and one can even see Mr. Mattice standing out front in a white shirt.

Despite the fact that the photo is in black and white,the clarity of the image of suggests one can almost feel the breeze blowing down the street.

It's for that reason that Gleed has created a pictorial history at st.lawrencepiks.com along with fellow local historian and Seaway enthusiast Ron Beaupre.

Gleed said the Morrisburg Main Street photo in particular offers readers of the site a chance to step back in time. Dozens of other photos can create the same effect, but the Main Street shot is of particular importance to Gleed.

"It’s kind of remarkable…you can get pretty good detail,” he said in an interview from his Mariatown home. "It kind of captures the essence of the town that was lost, if you like.”

The new pictorial history has been added to stlawrencepiks.com and covers the period from the first efforts to improve river navigation in the early 1800s to the present day, from Montreal to Lake Ontario. It includes more than 200 historic photographs and descriptions.

"We’ve had a lot of good feedback," said Gleed. "Theres a lot more interest than I anticipated.”

Gleed and his wife, Rosemary Laurin, settled in the Morrisburg area after he retired from the hi-tech industry in Ottawa. A lover of all things photographic, and technical, it seems natural that part of Gleed's retirement years are being spent cataloguing photographs for the online consumption of the masses.

He says it has been a progression of sorts.

"It started off as a vehicle to display our photos of the area. Ive been into digital photography for quite a few years,” he said. "And I've had a fair but of interest in websites too. Really we kind of just started it off as a display of photos from the area. Different season, etc."

The photographs and narrative of shipping along the St. Lawrence Seaway are provided by Beaupre who now also lives in Mariatown.

He grew up in the 1950s in Iroquois where he acquired his life-long interest in the seaway, its boats and history.

Over the years, he has collected a unique library of seaway-related photographs and other documents. He has made a selection of some of his favourite photographs and related information available for presentation in the pictorial history of the St. Lawrence Seaway found on the website.

Gleed originally introduced stlawrencepiks.com in 2010. The site displays some of the best digital photographs taken by himself and his wife, mostly from along the St. Lawrence River in the beautiful areas around Morrisburg.

In 2011, a Morrisburg pictorial history section was added to the site - based on the Rev. George Smith's historic photographs of the old town of Morrisburg, prior to being flooded by the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1958. They were presented with the permission of his daughter, Claire Delage, the current owner.

For more information, see www.stlawrencepiks.com

Organizations: Meikle General Store, Robert Mattice Grocery Store

Geographic location: Morrisburg, St. Lawrence Seaway, Gleed Mariatown Montreal Lake Ontario Ottawa St. Lawrence River

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