Lake Bernard    
Lake Bernard Lake Bernard Lake Bernard

Mercy and Gil Doane

It was a beautiful morning in late May, the year 1919. 

The bedroom faced east overlooking the Rideau River. the first rays of the new day filtering across the ceiling bringing Gil Doane out of a deep sleep.

Mercy Daone on Lake Bernard with her baby, Nancy, in 1920

He rose quietly so as not to wake his new bride, Mercy. She was still resting quietly, her breathing deep and relaxed.  He chose a pair of beige slacks, a red flannel shirt, a hound’s tooth jacket and gray socks. Grabbing his pipe, tobacco, lighter, wallet, and change, he stuffed the pockets of his jacket and pants and turned to the closet. Tucking the clothing under his arm, he bent and picked up a pair of waterproofed lace up boots from the floor of closet, and then closed it softly and turned and stepped silently into the hall.

Gil took a bath, shaved and dressed quickly.  This was going to be a great day and he didn’t want to be late for the train to Manawaki, he headed into the kitchen, made a bowl of shredded white bread sprinkled with milk and sugar. He put the dish and spoon in the sink and headed out the back door to the shed.

He walked along the path to the gate next to the garage. He would not use his car today. Reaching up, he unbolted the gate, opened it, turned and relatched it behind himself and headed west two blocks down Besserer Street to Charlotte. When he reached the corner, he turned right and walked briskly to the next corner, Rideau Street. Normally He would walk downtown, but today he was in a hurry.  Gil had received the letter from Stephen O’Rorke of  Low Quebec stating that he would be interested in selling lake front property and would be pleased to meet him at the Brennan’s Hill station to take him to the lots.

The streetcar came bustling along Charlotte, it’s bell ringing and came to a screeching halt abreast of him at the corner.  He climbed up the steel steps, grabbing the hand rail near the top, deposited his coin, and greeted the driver “Beautiful day, great to be alive, eh?’. The driver only nodded, flipped the lever dropping the change into the catch box, reached over and pulled the vertical handle next to the windshield towards himself, shutting the front doors, and engaged the electric drive.

Gil grabbed the support rail over head and headed back to the first row of seats facing forward at the end of the bench on the left hand side. Luckily the streetcar only had 3 other passengers, so he was able to take this, one of a few seats, with lots of leg room.

Gil Doane was a big man, 6 feet 4 inches tall, square shoulders, a prominent nose and a full head of auburn hair He weighed 265 lbs., according to his Doctor. He was in good shape after basic training.  He didn’t really get the chance to see much action. The General Electric Company had kept his job open for him and he was glad to be once again settled into a normal routine and things going so well at work.

As the streetcar picked up speed, it gently rocked back and forth. This rhythmic action, combined with the clicking of the joints in the rails as the wheels passed over them, only added  to his sense of peace and contentment. At 7:00 am on a Saturday morning the stops were few and far between. The other passengers, for the most part, were also going downtown.

The streetcar passed Dalhousie Street. The traffic in this area was pretty busy, as horse drawn wagons, and trucks waited their respective turns to enter the Market square about a block down.

Finally the streetcar approached the bottom of the hill below the Chateau Laurier, there on the left just ahead was the massive structure of the train station. Gil rose from his seat, pulled on the bell cord, signaling the driver that he wanted off at the next stop.  He made his way gingerly to the front, supporting himself with the overhead rails, absorbing the back and forth rocking motion first with one leg then the other.  The vehicle screeched to a halt kitty corner to the station. 

He thanked the driver, hopped down to the street surface and crossed in front of the streetcar making his way across Rideau Street. He kept walking south about the equivalent of a city block. The Station filled a city block.  The lower entrance was now directly across the street which also happened to be at the opposite end of Besserer Street from his home.

Gil crossed quickly to the sounds of delivery trucks sputtering to life, backfiring, massive steam engines firing up their boilers, while still others could be heard chugging in and out of the station arrival and departure platforms. The drifting clouds of stream seemed to carry the sounds of voices, conductors calling out their individual track number and warning of imminent departure, Paper Boys shouting their wares, all bringing a sense of magic to the morning air.  This was going to be a day to remember.

He quickly entered the center set of heavy brass revolving doors, pushing forward on the thick glass, he entered the grand hall.  He stopped as he entered, always awe struck by the bustle, splendor and shear expanse of this place. Here the ceilings seemed to touch the sky, supported by walls of beautifully polished granite. Huge columns supported a second story, which bordered the perimeter of the center hallway. The magnificent stone railings skirting this level were made of the same beautifully polished materials used to form the interior walls.

Gil checked the time on the huge blackened brass clock at the center of the grand hall, it’s ornate hands indicating that he still had about a half an hour before his train departed.  “Good!” he thought, he had purchased his ticket on Friday, but he needed now to buy something for his lunch.  A couple of sandwiches and some fruit would suffice. He strode through the crowd waiting at the ticket counters to the left and entered the station’s restaurant.

Looking around, he decided that the counter would be the best place to get what he needed. He took a stool to the left of the cashier. A shout middle aged waitress dressed in a black uniform dress trimmed with white lace around the collar, and a little white apron, approached him. 

“Morning! What’ll it be?” she asked without looking up from the note pad that she held in her hand. He gave her his order. She quickly scribbled it down, turned without another word and clipped the slip of paper on a bouncing strand of wire laden with the other orders ahead of his in the small serving window of the kitchen.  She returned and poured Gil a cup of strong tea.  He reached for the sugar bowl and added the usual two heaping teaspoonfuls of sugar, stirred slowly. He watched the steam lazily drifting upward off the spoon each time he paused and lifted it from the cup.  Gil sipped the tea slowly, savoring the mixed essence of the sweetness of the sugar and the tartness of the strong tea and listened to the confusion and bustle back in the grand hall.  She soon brought the sandwiches and a piece of cake wrapped in brown paper.  He paid the twenty-five cents, left her a three penny tip, thanked her and  headed toward the departure platform.
He looked at the large slate departure board positioned on the wall above the gates heading to the loading platforms.  His was the last platform according to the chalk inscription “Maniwaki, Train # 64, Departs 0800 hours”.  Only three trains traveled this track, the Trans Canadian, the train to the Laurentians and the Maniwaki train.  The loading platform was the furthest to the west. The track actually ran along the canal under Rideau street, circumnavigating the Chateau Laurier, and onto the bridge over to Hull Quebec and on to the Gatineau hills.  Gil strode quickly through the imposing iron gates, showing his ticket to the gate agent as he passed. 

The air smelled wonderful here, it was heavy with the stench of smoke, oil and grease, conveyed by the steam, which vented steadily from the brake boxes under each car.  The smoke puffed lazily from the huge stacks positioned atop the black steel oil lamp and cowcatcher on the front of each boiler. The imposing gray steel passenger cars waited quietly just ahead, he moved quickly now, not wanting to be late.  He arrived at the first car which sat abreast of the platform entrance. 

Looking at the number of people sitting along the windows, he decided to walk further back, taking advantage of one with fewer occupants.  He decided on the third and last car, the French porter greeted him with a big grin and a tip of his cap as Gil climbed up and into the car.  He chose a seat in the front row on the right hand side.  This would give him the best view of the Gatineau river as they proceeded north.  The trip to Brennan’s Hill would take about 2 hours.

It wasn’t long until he heard the Conductor shouting “All aboard, train number sixty-four now departing for Hull, Chelsea, Wakefield, Low, Kasabasua and Maniwaki. All aboard!”.  Doors slammed, porters picked up their step stools, used to assist entry to the passenger cars. The engine began to chug and steam began to build in the heating and the brake systems. The Newsboy came down the aisle offering yesterdays newspaper and magazines.  Gil took the daily paper, laid it on the seat beside him and sat back closing his eyes.  The big steam engine now began to chug rapidly. The massive driving wheels began to slip against the steel rails, squeeling at first and finally gripping. Gil opened his eyes and looked out the window, it was as if the train were travelling through the clouds in the heavens above.  Everything was obscured, hidden by a mixure of grayish smoke and steam emitted from engine as it pulled it’s load forward into the tunnel under Rideau street.

The conductor came through the coach several times, collecting tickets, and announcing the arrival at the different stops along the route. The train dutifully stopped first in Hull and then in Chelsea.  It travelled through the rolling hills covered with a mixture of woodland and pastures.  Even the cattle along the route stopped grazing momentarily, looking up, as the train puffed and chugged ever northward along the side of their particular pasture. The train followed the road now passing Tenaga and finally turning east towards the Gatineau river.  Finally the racks turned north and  ran along the river’s edge.  The steep hillside on the opposite shore seemed to move in to meet the east bank in spots.  These parts of the moving hillside were impassible, covered with cedars and spruce interrupted by jutting rock formations.   The trees and rocks gave a purple hue to the hillside, giving distinction to the Gatineau Hills. The rails now were so close to the river, it felt as if the train was in the river fighting the currents and the logs as it made it’s way north. 

Gil was getting excited now.  He looked at his watch, they’d been enroute for about an hour and ten minutes, according to the schedule they were nearing Wakefield.   Just at that moment, the train began to slow and the Conductor stuck his head in the compartment and announced the imminent arrival at Wakefield. 

Wakefield was a pretty little town, nestled along the edge of the river in  large bay. The stop was about ten minutes.  This was the last scheduled stop before his final destination.

The train didn’t usually stop at Brennan’s Hill, so he didn’t expect it to be too imposing a place. Most of these small whistle stops were for passenger pick up or freight delivery, such as supplies or milk shipments to a local co-operative.  A person looking to stop the train would place a flag in a special holder located on a post next to the railside of the station building. This would serve as the signal for the engineer to stop the train.

Gil’s train made one unscheduled stop before Brennan’s Hill.  The train stopped at the village of Ferrelton to drop milk containers for the local creamery.  After a delay of about only five minutes, it was once again under way.   The train now left the river’s edge and headed inland.  It now followed the general direction of the main road north.  It seemed almost as soon as the train made it’s move away from the river that the Conductor opened the door and said “Your stop, sir! Brennan’s Hill! Please, follow me!” 

Gil could feel a shiver of excitement spread across his shoulders and up the back of his neck.  He thanked the conductor, gathered up his things and followed him forward to the front car.  What time do you return to this stop?” he asked. 

“Five, fifteen this evening, sir.” came the response.

“I’ll be returning with you.” Gil said

The conductor said matter of factly” We look forward to see you, sir.”

Gil thanked the Conductor, and exited the front left side of the car.

There in front of him, standing on the small station platform, stood a short middle aged man of slight build. He wore a moth eaten straw hat over shaggy graying temples, a flannel shirt worn through at the elbows, faded denim britches and boots caked in dirt. He carried the scent of years of hard farm labor . Gil knew well this smell of cattle and grain. His days on the home farm in Newmarket were not that distant in his past. It took him back to simpler times. He knew this was right, he felt good about this little man, he instantly liked him.

“How the hell are ya! You must be Gil Doane, Jesus, you’re a big one, aren’t ya?” came the salutation, smothered in a thick Irish accent. A big smile and a leathery hand pushed itself forward in a greeting. 

Gil smiled back, shook the hand, surprised by the shear strength of this little man. There was a sense of magic to this moment.  It was however, interrupted by the train conductor behind him shouting “All aboard!” He turned, pausing to look one last time as the train chugged once again northward into the distance. Soon, all that could be heard was the intermittent whistle somewhere off in the distance. 

Steve O’Rorke just stood there quietly saying nothing while Gil stared after the train. Finally Gil turned to Steve and said “Right oh, let’s have a look at these lots!”  Steve turned without another word and headed for the buggy parked to the south of the little station.  Gil followed quietly.

The buggy was a basic black wooden rig with a single bench seat. The front of the buggy curved up just below the seat to protect legs and feet from road debris and some of the elements, the seat was made of padded leather about four feet in length.  The back of the seat was also a single long leather pad supported by bent iron rods at each end.  Just behind this, was a small storage space.  The rig was drawn by a sad looking older gray mare, which stood quietly head bowed, just waiting.  The carriage didn’t offer a roof of any kind, but what the hell, it really was perfect for a day like this one. Gil climbed up beside Steve, Pulled his pipe and tobacco from his pocket, stuffed it with the tobacco, lit it, drew deeply.  The pungent cloud of smoke drifted up and off behind him as the buggy edged forward turning onto the main Gatineau road.  He settled back ready to enjoy the trip to Lake Bernard.

The old mare plodded slowly, pulling them up a steep grade.  At the top was Brennan’s Hill, it consisted of only a handful of clapboard houses, probably all still owned by Brennans. Steve now slapped the rains across the mare’s back, quickened the pace as they headed further south. The mare now began to trot, the dust from the road surface beginning to drift in and around their feet.
They proceeded only about two hundred feet down the road when suddenly Steve drew back on the reins, slowing the mare, to make a hard right onto a narrow roadway.  This trail consisted of a single cart track. Grass grew thick on both sides of the wagon track.  Once again they began to pick up speed. They proceeded a short distance before the track suddenly climbed and forked in to two different directions.  Steve took the track to the right.  It seemed less travelled than the other one. 

Gil Doane, with daughter Nancy, c1930
Gil Doane, with daughter Nancy, c1930

After travelling for some time through freshly planted open fields and passing two white clapboarded farmhouses, they approached a small cluster of buildings bounding both sides of the cart track.  Each was constructed from hand hewn cedar logs and the roofs were covered with shakes made from the same material.  The buildings had grayed, naturally aging with the passage of time.  The two buildings to the right side appeared to be small storage barns, various pieces of farming equipment lay scattered across the grass surface surrounding each.  To the left side of the track was the farmhouse itself, a small building suitable for a bachelor such as Steve. The spaces between the beams on this building were caulked with plaster.  Wisps of smoke curled from the single brick chimney positioned on the back wall.  To the west of the little farm house Gil could see the tops of two additional buildings, the first made of perpendicular cedar boards, the second of the same hand hewn logs as the other barns.

Steve pulled the mare to a halt in the roadway directly between the buildings. Steve told Gil he would like him to meet his friend Dave.  At that moment a  heavy set individual emerged from the back door of the house, he wore a large brimmed straw hat, and coveralls. “Dave, this is Mr. Doane.   He’s here to look at the lots at Lake Bernard.” said Steve. Dave strode around the front of the wagon, patting the forehead of the mare as he passed and extended his hand in greeting to Gil. “Pleased to make your acquaintance.” he said in a formal British accent. Gil found out later that Dave had once been a gentleman’s gentleman before coming to Canada.

They exchanged pleasantries, talked for some time about England, the Gatineau and farming in general.  Finally Dave saluted, said “Cheerio!” and backed to the side of the road as Steve urged the mare forward.

Gil now realized that the cart track actually continued west of the buildings, entering the trees beyond.  As they entered the woods, the trees closed in overhead, the daylight twinkling through the fresh greenery dappling the green, brown and white surface of the forest floor.  Mixed with the emergence of new plant life among the beds of dried leaves and twigs were masses of white trilliums carpeting the surface as far as the eye could see.  He breathed deeply, inhaling the fragrant fresh scent of fresh clean air laced with the scent of budding plants and wild flowers.

The track wound through the trees for some time. As the horse trotted forward though the trees, Gil and Steve talked about the lake, it’s size, where the O’Rorke property was located.  Steve related to him how the lake got it’s name, about Chief Bernard and the Indian band’s summer camp site on what is now is land on Bernard point.  Gil became more excited as they talked and rode on.

Suddenly, just ahead, the forest opened up into a clearing.  Here to the left was a another hewn log barn.  Rudiments of winter feed, hay and straw, could be seen through the doorway as they passed by.  Steve kept his cattle here, they wandered aimlessly about the clearing.

All at once Gil sat bolt upright, his breath caught in his chest, as he now caught his first glimpse of sparkling blue lake water just ahead to the left.  Steve drew back on the reigns and the mare came to a halt just behind an old sawmill positioned on the shore of the bay.  Sawdust lay everywhere along the water’s edge.

“Here we are”, he said in his thick Irish accent, “The property you want to look at is to the left along that shore.” He gestured towards the water’s edge to the left of the mill.  Gil jumped down and turned to face Steve.  Steve drawled, “I’ll leave you to look for what you want.  I’ll pick you up in a few hours.”  Gil nodded and thanked him, he stood quietly as Steve turned the buggy around and headed back in the direction they had just come.  He was now completely alone.

He began his walk to the water’s edge, anxious for his first real full view of the lake.  As he strode forward through the short pasture grass, not only the cattle, but hundreds of small leopard frogs and crickets bounded quickly from his path.  Arriving at the water’s edge, he stood quietly looking out across the lake surface.  The shoreline had recently been lumbered out.  The first growth of large cedars had been removed, and now the second growth of light green deciduous trees such as birch, poplar, oak and maple mixed with pine and black spruce had established themselves covered the shoreline and surrounding hills.   The water’s edge was strewn with boulders and small rocks, typical of the nature of the Gatineau hills. A pair of loons moved quietly about one hundred yards offshore, diving periodically for food and then resurfacing to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

In the crystal clear lake shallows at his feet, he could see schools of small minnows making their way across the rocky lake floor. There was other life here as well, crawfish, clams, nymphs, and other natural microbiology that made up the life of a healthy lake.  The water surface danced with some sort of little water bugs spinning rapidly in small circles.

He again lit his pipe, turned and entered the woods heading inland a few feet from the water’s edge slowly making his way south.  He found going slow at first for the soil was mucky and water logged.  He trudged on, glad that he had picked a good pair of boots for the trip.  Soon the land began to rise ahead of him, slowly climbing first only a few feet and then rising about twenty feet above the lake surface. He found the going fairly easy, little undergrowth because of the natural rocky surface.  He paused often to look out across the lake trying to find the best view.

The First World War had just ended a year earlier, a decisive battle at Vimmey Ridge.  The lay of the land here seemed very much like that famous ridge.  He climbed to the top of the highest of these ridges, closest to the shoreline that faced due west. The view was breathtaking.  He could see all the way down the lake, past Bernard point to the far shore.  The deep green foliage on the islands and along the rugged shoreline contrasted against the deep blue lake waters made him once again catch his breath, “This was his Vimmey Ridge!” he thought “This is the land he would now buy”.

And so the adventure began......  

Submitted by Gilbert Heggtveit





From the 1903 Ottawa City Directory

Lake Bernard Fishing Club-Hon. John Costigan, President; W.J Gerald, Vice President; J.F. Shaw, Secretrary- Treasurer.


Plan to Conserve Fish and Game. Ottawa Citizen - Apr 27, 1945 - Account of the joint meeting of the Lake Bernard Fishing Club and the Cottagers Association at the Chateau Laurier.


Lake Bernard Cottagers Annual Regatta Staged.‎ Ottawa Citizen - Aug 4, 1953 - With 500 in attendance, the Lake Bernard Cottagers' Annual Regatta, held on Sunday, was probably the largest and most...


Lake Bernard Cottagers Hold Meeting.‎ Ottawa Citizen - May 19, 1949 - Report of the meeting held at the Chateau Laurier.


Neil McClelland Wins Trophy At Lake Bernard Regatta.‎ Ottawa Citizen - Aug 9, 1950 - Neil McClelland son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry mcclelland of Ottawa and Lake Bernard, Que. was the winner of the coveted Trophy at the annual regatta of the Lake...


Competition Keen At Lake Bernard Aquatic Meet.‎ Ottawa Citizen - Aug 5, 1947 - The annual regatta of the Lake Bernard Association at Lake Bernard, Que. was held over the holiday week end. Events included swimming races for children...


Aquatic Sports At Lake Bernard.‎ Ottawa Citizen - Aug 4, 1948 - Aquatic sports at Lake Bernard. Only one mishap marred the program with...


One Racing Boat Upsets In Lake Bernard Regatta.‎ Ottawa Citizen - Aug 2, 1949 - A slight accident marred the otherwise successful water regatta by members of the Lake Bernard Cottagers' ...


Lake Bernard Cottagers hold fundraiser for hospital.‎ Ottawa Citizen - Sep 4, 1951 - A total of $539.85 was raised by the Lake Bernard Cottagers' Association last Saturday when members held a fundraiser at their clubhouse for the Memorial Hospital ...


©copyright 2012 - All Rights Reserved
Privacy Policy | Website Charter