Precious historic documents in Almonte, destined for an undisclosed location will instead be finding their way to a temporary home at the Perth Museum – if Lanark County council has its way.
Tay Valley Township Deputy Reeve Susan Freeman brought the matter to the attention of council on Wednesday, Dec. 19, noting that Perth, Drummond/North Elmsley Township, and Tay Valley would be holding their joint 200th anniversary celebrations in 2016 and that the wills, plans, land abstracts, and property transaction documentation, are an essential part of recording and celebrating the two centuries.
“The county archives are very concerned,” said Freeman, of the plans to remove the files – about 30 boxes in all, dating from 1868 – from the Land Registry Office in Almonte, and send them to an undisclosed location.
“What the abstracts do is they give you the history of a property,” said Freeman. “This is essential documentation to establish a heritage property designation. They (the documents) have been microfilmed but they are not very clear. People have been having problems seeing the details. It is important to keep those documents in Lanark County.”
Because of its climate-controlled facility, the Perth Museum has volunteered to store the files until a more permanent home can be found for them.
“I think we need to move as soon as possible,” warned Freeman, since plans are afoot to get the files moved out of Almonte by the end of the year.
Council voted that a letter should be sent to seek ownership of the documents, along with details of how they would be properly stored, to Government Services Minister Dwight Duncan and MPPs Randy Hillier (Lanark, Frontenac, Lennox and Addington) and Jack MacLaren (Carleton-Mississippi Mills).
“This is happening all across Ontario and we are one of the last (communities) that this is happening to,” said Beckwith Township Reeve Richard Kidd, who added that, by containing the solution within the letter to the provincial politicians, “that gives it a lot more bit, that we will solve the problem.”
Kidd pointed out that there were other reasons beyond preserving the county’s written heritage for keeping them in the area.
“If people come from all across Canada to Lanark County to trace their roots… if we have those documents here, that brings in tourism and that is a form of economic development, and we support that,” said Kidd.
Perth Mayor John Fenik said that his community was happy to help, and he even offered to speak to Perth’s chief administrative officer, John deRosenroll, about storing any overflow files at Perth town hall.
“I’ve got a truck that could haul that,” joked Fenik about picking up the files.
Another reason for keeping the records in Lanark County was that masonry students working at Algonquin College’s Perth campus need the documents as well when they research historic properties for restorations as part of their course work.
Drummond/North Elmsley deputy Reeve Gail Code stressed that the file issue highlights the need for more support for Archives Lanark.
“They are in desperate need of more space for this stuff,” said Code. “They are in desperate need of our support.”
Mississippi Mills Mayor John Levi, stressed that his municipality, which includes the town of Almonte, was not made aware of the move by the Land Registry Office.
“Nobody came to use and told us that they were packing this stuff up,” said Levi, who added that it was a shame what happens to important old documents when, for example, old private offices are wound down.
“They take ‘em out to the dump and burn ‘em. They don’t care,” said Levi.