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Communities and Families

Thank you to all those who work to preserve our stories.

The Ross Museum in Foresters Fall, and the Champlain Trail Museum in Pembroke, Ontario, both have a great deal of information about this area.  Ross Museum’s website has an interesting self-guided tour of Westmeath Village with information contributed by Patti Desjardins and Bobby Grylls. Spending a few hours visiting either museum is very informative and entertaining.

All of this area was encompassed within the historic Westmeath Township, and Evelyn Moore Price’s important book:  “The History of the Corporation of Westmeath Township”, published to commemorate the Provincial Bicentennial in 1984, is the “Go To” reference work.  Although now out of print, it still sits on the bookshelf in many local homes and well worth searching out, if you love local history.  It is really the most comprehensive work done to date.

In 2010, in celebration of the 175th Anniversary  “Beachburg: A Rich Heritage, Celebrating 175 Years, 1835 – 2010” was published in  a limited number.  It is a wonderful compilation of stories and pictures of the families and historical buildings of Beachburg and Area.  Many area homes have copies.

The Beachburg Library, which services Westmeath, La Passe and Perretton, at is a great resource centre and the very helpful staff will assist in your history research. (Or just take out a great book and be transported to new reality for an hour or two.)


The hamlet of Westmeath overlooks the Lower Allumette Lake and the name Westmeath comes from a county in Ireland. The first settler in the Village of Westmeath was George Washington Tucker, a United Empire Loyalist, who owned a large section of the hamlet as shown on a survey plan dated 1875.

Westmeath is the oldest community in the area. In the early days, Westmeath was situated on the busy portage route to the lumber camps and the hamlet grew as settlers moved into the surrounding area. It had several blacksmith shops, a carriage shop where wagons and buggies were built, a harness shop, a tailor’s shop, a shoemakers shop and a barber shop. The Acheson House was the first hotel. There also were several general stores in which the farmers could sell or trade their produce locally.

In later years, Westmeath boasted one of the first covered arenas in this rural area. Today, the hamlet of Westmeath provides residents with a rural lifestyle yet it offers the convenience of two small elementary schools, several churches and an arena & community hall complex, all within its boundaries.

The Fraser family’s influence in this village was stongly felt.  The son of the original settlers arriving in the 1830s, Alex Fraser first built a log store in Westmeath and later  went on to found the Fraser Lumber Company. During the peak of the lumber trade on both sides of the Ottawa River, many families owed their livelihood to the company.  And winter shanty life in the lumber camps became the stuff of legend and song throughout the Valley.

A large billboard commemorating this historic lumber trade is mounted on the
front of the Westmeath Recreation Centre.  showing a large raft of squared timbers.

A steamboat tug named the Alex Fraser both moved passengers and towed timber on the Lower Allumette Lake for many years.

Of Alex Sr.’s 12 children, one son Thomas owned a sawmill in Westmeath and served as Reeve and a member of County Council.  Another son Alex operated a general store in Westmeath.

Alex Sr.’s son W.H.A. Fraser, then in charge of the Fraser Lumber Company, knew the importance of retaining his skilled woodsmen the year round.  He established Fraser’s Farm downstream from Westmeath, (now the Reeves and Bromley properties on Rapid Road), with homes provided for living quarters during the summer months.  The men worked on Fraser’s Farm. The original six-sided  building which housed the water system to supply running water to both the large summer home of the Frasers and the workmen’s homes,  still stands on the east side of Rapid Road.

Evelyn Price’s book tells of  a wild west style cattle drive over the six miles from the Village of Westmeath to the Waltham Ferry operating  at Spotswoods. Cattle for the lumber camps of the Pontiac, in Western Quebec, were moved in this fashion. Cattle were purchased by buyers and moved  on the hoof to the ferry where they were herded into a corral.

It was an exciting experience for Westmeath youths hired to ride herd on a drove of possibly 50 head, down the unfenced River Road, (now renamed Rapid Road) with dense bush on either side.  Should an animal suddenly go beserk and head into the woods, it had to be followed – and if it could not be returned it had to be slaughtered.

Only eight cattle could go across on the ferry at one time so the hurdles of this cattle drive were numerous! It was the duty of the young herdsmen to guard against any animal leaping overboard during the ferry crossing and if that happened they were to get the animal back out of the river.  Then after they were safely corralled at the Waltham side, they were driven up Black River to the lumber camps to be butchered as needed, for more beef to feed the hungry men.  Before the age of refridgeration it was best to take them into the camps alive.

La Passe

The name La Passe originates from “Lapasse des outardes” in reference to the passing of migrating geese in their flights to and from the Northern and Southern areas.

This billboard now displayed in the village shows the early settlement and the gray stone
Roman Catholic church with its white spire which is still a prominent landmark of La Passe.

La Passe was first known though as Gower Point since it was located on the eastern extremity of Gower Line, (the “w” was later lost and it is known now as the Gore Line), leading directly to the hamlet of Westmeath.  It was during the 1830′s that settlers journeyed up the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Rivers from Quebec City and Montreal to inhabit this area. The majority of settlers to LaPassse were French Canadians, but there were also some pioneers of Scottish and Irish descent.

To nurture their strong Catholic faith, the first chapel to be built was a log building erected on the site of the present presbytery, but fire later destroyed it. In 1886, a stone building was constructed which today still serves as Our Lady of Mount Carmel Parish.

La Passe was well known for its ferry that travelled from La Passe to Fort Coulonge, Quebec, a distance of three miles. The first ferry used a horse-powered engine while in later years, a larger gas engine was used and a wooden scow. Arnel Laporte who operated the ferry from 1939 to 1961 used a steel scow that could carry six large cars at one time.

During the winter months, an ice road was maintained across the Ottawa River, which was used by farmers to take their produce such as hay, grain, potatoes and butter to the lumber camps, or to be traded for other goods in the Quebec stores.

Nick-named “L.A.” by the locals; many village residents have the river literally at the bottom of their gardens.  Nowadays, La Passe’s population peaks during the summer months as cottagers and tourists descend on the hamlet and surrounding areas, such as popular Lacroix’s Bay, to enjoy some leisure time spent boating, fishing and swimming on the Ottawa River. The whitewater rafting companies further downstream also draw people to the area.

In winter snowmobiling, ice fishing, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing brings people back to their winterized cottages to join the locals.

1836 Map of Westmeath: (Click on map to enlarge it for a closer look.) This early survey map signed by Deputy Land Surveyor John McNaughton is from “The History of the Corporation of Westmeath Township” by Evelyn Moore Price. 1984.  The three sections surveyed into individual holdings are labelled counterclockwise “East Front” – the La Passe & Lacroix Bay areas, “West Front” – the Westmeath & Rapid Road areas, and “North Front” – the Bellows Bay & Moore’s Beach areas.  Note the faint line of the Stoqua Portage from Muskrat Lake to the Ottawa River.   The name La Passe appears in Lower Canada across the river from it’s present location. The Gower (Gore) Line is very prominent as the survey lines are oriented at 90 degrees to it on the north side. Surveyor John McNaughton knew this area well and accompanied William Logan on his 1845 expedition.



Perretton stretches through the countryside surrounding the Roads 12 and 21, south of Lower Allumette Lake.   The road from Pembroke either continues on to Beachburg or swings left at Chaffey’s Corners to go towards the Village of Westmeath. The original store at Chaffey Corners is long gone. Both the red brick school (“Moore’s School” – S. S. No. 1, Westmeath), and the original Methodist church, (then Grace United Church, which closed in 2009),   a little further along Rd. 21 just south of the school, have found new uses. The first school made of logs was at the Westmeath-Beachburg Roads junction with the northern end of the early  Stoqua Portage used by the Indians when coming overland from Muskrat Lake to the Ottawa River.

The big red brick house on the Kenny farm today, was once used as a stopping place for people to stay overnight on their way through to rest the horses and break the trip.

The name Perretton is from the surname of an early school teacher by the name of Perrett who lived on the Zion Line.

Perretton’s first settler was William Moore Sr. and family,  who moved to the Westmeath Front of Upper Canada (North Front A Section) in 1836,  and was granted 1,000 acres of Crown Lands for service in the war. The name Moore lives on in many descendents and at the wide sands of Moore’s Beach.


The families that had chosen to settle in the old historic Township of Westmeath, (now Ward Two of the Township of Whitewater Region), have left their mark either by present-day descendents, or the deep legacy of a thriving sense of community still enjoyed today.

The original families, and new settlers coming each decade, understood that their neighbours and community were their Larger Family..

Adams, Amyotte, Anderson, Barr, Bellows, Bertrand, Bromley, Brown, Cameron, Campbell, Carswell, Chamberlain, Couturier, Davison, DeRuiter, Desjardins, Drapeau, Drew, Dunfield, Dunn, Dupuis, England, Ethier, Fletcher, Foy, Fraser, Gervais, Gilchrist, Giroux, Graham, Grylls, Hawthorne, Hennessy, Jackson, Jeffrey, Kelly, Kenny, Keyes, Lacroix, Laderoute, Laporte, Leblanc, Little, Martin, McBride, McLauglin, McLean, McLeese, McMullen, Moffat, Moore, Nicolai, Norlock, O’Brien, Poupore, Price, Reid, Robinson, Ross, Snowdon, Spotswood, Timm, Tucker, Valliant, Vizena, Ward, Watson, White, Whitmore, Wilson, Wright

Apologies to the families missed in this quick listing.
Each decade brings newcomers to the community, each warmly welcomed,  and the sense of Community is strengthened.  Now many modern “settlers” are leaving larger centres attracted here by the lifestyle and the Ottawa River shoreline; either to enjoy their retirement, or raise their families.

Forefathers and Favourites:   For a humourous look at one family, please read:   Long Before TV    by Bob Grylls.


With such a wide sweep of waterways around its border, this area has a large number of cottagers who swell the population in the warmer months.  These part-time residents are vital to the energy and vibrancy of this community.   Their love of our “Big Bend” makes them wonderful new neighbours and friends and many put down deep roots and form strong ties to the community.

New Settlers

This is the fastest growing area in Whitewater Region, leading in the number of new building permits issued annually.   The community spirit and the Ottawa River lifestyle attracts new residents each year.  Some of these newcomers have taken a few minutes to set down their personal thoughts about their move here.

Reflection on Westmeath Area - As a retiree who has moved to Westmeath, I have found the area to be “full of opportunities” for people who want to stay active and engaged.

The natural beauty of the great Ottawa River and the countryside offer recreational activities for all seasons. From boating, fishing, swimming and cycling,  to skating, skiing,  snowshoeing and ice fishing, people, wanting to be active and fit, experience an “unfound treasure”.

The Westmeath Recreation Centre as well, offers all kinds of social outings: dances, carnivals, community celebrations, weekly social gatherings (soup and sandwich Wednesdays and Riverview Social Club), parish suppers, school fundraising dinners. You name it, the area has it.

The Whitewater-Bromley Community Health Centre (which is currently undergoing expansion of building space and services) supports all one’s needs for a healthy lifestyle.

Close to the town of Pembroke and the growing village of Beachburg, this area provides for all your shopping needs. Truly, for those wanting to live life to the full, Westmeath and area have lots to offer.

From Cathy Williamson



The Big Bend! – “We moved to the Township of Whitewater Region in the spring of 2002.  Our aim was retirement on “the River”, and we found it.  We have a lovely home, great neighbours and “the River” at the edge of our lawn.

“The River” I speak of is the Ottawa River, which has an amazing feature right here in our area.  That feature is called the “Big Bend”.  The Ottawa river flows in a south-east direction from Pembroke, Ontario to Westmeath, Ontario.  Then it makes a sharp turn and goes north for about 8 kms.  At this point near Waltham, Quebec it makes another sharp turn and travels south-east again for about 8 kms then turns due south and passes La Passe Ontario.

“Now that’s where we are.  “The River” goes by our house from north to south and our house looks east to Calumet Island, Quebec.  The sunrises are spectacular year round.

“So when people ask “where do you live”, I say “on the east side of the “Big Bend”".  Then I have to tell them all about it and I enjoy talking about our area.  It is so nice we have not taken a vacation since we moved here.

“I have seen the “Big Bend” from 32,000 ft; you will notice it when watching the weather and you can go to Google Earth and follow the Ottawa River and see it.  Once seen it is unforgettable.”

From Tony Mercier



Retirement in the Valley – After 30 years with Bell Canada, working out of Ottawa, Montreal and Toronto, the opportunity for a retirement package was available and I jumped at the chance.

My husband and I were living in an adult community in Stittsville and packing up for the trip to our non-winterized cottage on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River at every opportunity.  The decision made to take retirement meant that we could combine house and cottage.  We found the perfect place in Whitewater.

I am the “water” person in the family and wanted to be able to swim and kayak on the river; my husband loved our pontoon boat and wanted to be on the river for the boating.  Our new location suited us both to a “T”.

The best part is we could still boat to the “old cottage” location to visit old friends and we have made many good friends in our new community.  The smaller communities of Beachburg, La Passe and Westmeath all have a great on-going social environment with many scheduled and non-scheduled activities that made it easy to integrate and become active participants far quicker, and on a more intimate basis, than you can find in the big city.

From Margaret Burke

There was always something going on -  It was in 1999 that Pierrette and I decided to start looking around for a place to retire. We had always like the Perth area, but we did not exclude other places either. Living in Kanata we looked at those areas within a reasonable distance of Ottawa.  We decided to widen our search to include areas further up the Ottawa Valley.

Somehow we made contact with a real estate agent in Pembroke who we got on well with and who knew what we were essentially looking for. We saw many waterfront lots. Some were good and some could hardly be called waterfront. We got a call one day that there was a property for sale just outside La Passe. Despite our  concerns that we really only wanted to buy a waterfront lot, our agent told us, and it turned later quite correctly, that this piece of property with an existing house on it would not stay on the market for long.

We liked the area, we liked the river, and most importantly we liked the property. We made an offer and the usual dance began, albeit a short one, and voila!, we owned  our own waterfront home!

That was in 2003 and we then spent almost 4 years of working every weekend clearing some of the land, landscaping generally, and then finally enlarging the house. We fully retired and moved up permanently in the summer of 2007.

To our surprise and delight, we have met some great people up here, and made many friends. I have found and hooked up with many guys who like to fish and hunt and we have both become quite involved in many ways, in what we have found to be a very vibrant community. We have joined a very active Social Club which hosts great dances and other events and also is very active in fundraising for the WDRA.

There is always something going on, even in the dead of winter.  Initially we missed the City, but that feeling waned considerably and now our trips to Ottawa are very infrequent and sometimes as only a necessity.

Would we recommend this area to those thinking of retiring in the near future?……absolutely!

From Pierrette and Phil Cottrell



Coming into a new community – When I retired in 2008, Gayle and I sold our home in Toronto to build a new home and new life in the Westmeath area. It didn’t take us long to decide to move here, as we had relatives in the area and a building lot on the Ottawa River.

Our family had been camping here for 20 plus years during summer weekends, but living here full time was going to be a big change. And for the better, as it turned out! Enjoying the River and its wildlife and outdoor sporting opportunities fulltime was a big bonus. But even more so was meeting so many friendly neighbours and making so many new friends.

We were somewhat familiar with the activities at the Westmeath Recreation Centre. We remembered the Canada Day hearty BBQ feasts and fireworks that the WDRA put on, but being only summer weekend visitors, we had not been to other hall or rink events. But after that first Christmas Dinner/Dance in 2008, we were hooked. The place was decorated beautifully and the food was terrific. We sure knew many more people at the end of that night, than at the beginning. After that, we made sure that we tried to make as many activities as were planned; it was fun and a great way to socialize.

I had always thought that I would volunteer at something during my retirement years (notwithstanding we’re also building a small B&B business).  After considering various options, I thought that I could be of some help participating in the WDRA management team. It has been an enriching experience for me, another great way to meet new people and a new way to learn life lessons.

All in all, I consider our move to live and experience life in Whitewater Region a big success, and would highly recommend it to anyone.

From Paul Stewart

A Busy Young Mother’s Reflection – “Ottawa River shoreline, quiet roads, friendly neighbors and countryside make Westmeath a haven to raise children. Try bicycling, bird-watching, fishing or boating.

“Join any of our teams or clubs. Our Recreation  Center offers great things for the kids to do:  hockey in the winter, baseball in the summer, teen dances, and so much more.  Celebrate at our outstanding community events like Winter Carnival or July 1st… or relax by swimming or playing in the sand near the water.

“Whatever you choose, I’m sure your family will be as happy as mine is,  here at home in Westmeath.”

J. A.

Contributing to Community Spirit & Having Fun – “As relatively new members of the community and parents of 4 school age children, the Westmeath Rink & Hall has pleasantly become the centre of our activities.  From hockey, 4H, public skating, Winter Carnival, Santa Claus Parade, Canada Day and all of the other events it seems we are always gathering with our family and the friends we have made.

“It’s important to us as parents that our kids participate in the offered activities and have fun, as well as become involved and contribute to our community spirit.”

Neil and Dana Nicholson

World War Two Heroes’ Medals “Come Home”

The Reading of the Roll at the Remembrance Day Ceremony, 11th November, 2010 was very special. The story of lost medals honouring two brothers, who are named on the Westmeath Cenotaph adjacent to the WDRA Centre,  had recently come to light.

Carson and Warrington Foy, sons of John and Mabel Foy, had both died in WWII, just weeks apart. As fate would have it, both men died by friendly fire incidents.

On July 25, 1944, Pilot Officer Carson Foy, a tail gunner with the Royal Air Force’s 61st Squadron, was on a raid of St. Cyr near Paris when an aircraft above them dropped its bombs too early. One bomb sheared Pilot Officer Foy’s gun turret off,  and the 26 year old airman fell to his death. Carson Foy is buried at the Commonwealth War Grave at Yvelines, France

A few weeks later on August 14, 1944, Gunner Warrington Foy, deployed with the 6th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, died when allied aircraft missed their intended targets and bombed their own lines.  Warrington Foy is interned at the Bretteville-sur-Laize Canadian War Cemetery in Calvados, France.

A Memorial Cross medal was sent to the family for each son, but they were lost over time. In the fall of 2010, the medals were recovered from e-Bay sales site, and have been prepared for final display in the Westmeath Hall.

Thanks go out to Councillor Joey Trimm , who organized the medals return, and to Marina Pither (sister) and Lana Loxton (niece) who have donated the medals to the Hall. The medals were initially discovered by Dave Thomson of St. George, Ont. who contacted Joey Trimm.

The Memorial Cross, also known as the Silver Cross, or Mother’s Cross, is issued by Canada as a memento of personal loss and sacrifice on the part of widows and mothers of Canadian military servicemen and women who lay down their lives for their country during war. The number, rank and name of the soldier is engraved on the back. The GV1R on this WW2 period medal stands for King George the 6th.