Going back through old local newspapers to me is like a trip to Disneyworld, minus the outrageous prices, bizarre characters (and I don’t mean the Disney characters!) and annoying spoilt children. While in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, I gleefully take refuge in these glimpses into our past.
For example, I came across an edition of a Chatham paper from 1918, and there were so many great stories there that I want to share with you this week. Some were tragic, some were humorous and others were just plain interesting reading.
The Coutts Family from Thamesville is almost legendary in their accomplishments, and when I came across the following article I was reminded of why this was the case.
According to this edition, “J.M. Coutts, of Thamesville, a student at Chatham Collegiate Institute has passed the Scholarship Matriculation winning the Blake Scholarship for general proficiency. He obtained first-class honours in classics and third-class honours in mathematics. Considering the fact that Mr. Coutts attended the collegiate for only one year, his record is a most remarkable one.”
Out in Harwich Township near Erie Beach, the “old girls and boys” held their annual Old Boys and Old Girls Reunion with “the usual success of previous years”. According to this 1918 newspaper, “there was an immense crowd numbered among. Some there were old boys and girls raised in the Harwich locality and now residing at such distances from their native home as Chicago, Cleveland and New York.”
In the afternoon, there were “fat men’s and fat ladies’ races,” baby contests, etc. with “valuable prizes being awarded to the winners.” During the afternoon, several of the boys “gave short but interesting addresses”.
Old Boys and Girls were certainly a major part of celebrations throughout North America in the early 1900s, and Chatham had a number of them. I wonder why they stopped? It seems to me that this would be a great tradition to revive.
This 1918 newspaper also reported on the tragic death of a young lad by the name of Ray Grant, who was electrocuted on a hot Sunday afternoon in August of that year. Apparently, the 12-year-old boy and some of his friends were diving from a boxcar on the Cowhand L.E. spur line near the Canada Flour Mills and into the nearby Thames River. Unfortunately, young Grant slipped as he was attempting one of his dives and came into contact with the high-voltage trolley line.
Although Dr. Brisson was “the first physician to arrive shortly after the incident, artificial respiration was of no avail.”
The finding of the coroner’s jury looking into the matter recommended that “civic authorities should provide a proper swimming pool in the City of Chatham,” as well as urging the C.W and L.E. Railway Line to “provided proper protection against high voltage wires in the city”.
Oddly enoug,h there was no mention of the responsibility of parents to remind their children to stay away from dangerous spots like the top of boxcars and high-voltage lines.
On a lighter note I suppose (although the local man in question might take issue with this statement), a Chatham man by the name of Charles Osborn had to face the cold reality that his wife, whom I suppose he considered to be loving and faithful, had four … yes I said four … other husbands!
Margaret Lequette was not only married to Osborn but to two other men from London – Charles Rankin and Henry Thurleigh – as well as a Charles Graham of Jackson, Mich. The fourth husband was not named in the article.
Mrs. Lequette was sentenced to three years in penitentiary (a bit severe, don’t you think?) for her habit of collecting husbands rather than figurines, cups, saucers, bottles, etc.
No mention was made in the 1918 newspaper as to the attributes of the lady in question as to why and how she could attract that many husbands in such a short period of time.
I wonder if it may have been her … cooking prowess?
The Gilberts are award-winning historians with a passion for telling the stories of C-K’s fascinating past.