From Lochnaw to Manitoulin - A Review 

From Lochnaw to Manitoulin - A Review This book details through a soldier's diary a trip from Penetanguishene to Manitoulin Island in 1839.


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The Great Lakes Raconteur

Old newspapers and government records provide historians with valuable information. But when historians want to put a personal perspective to their research there is nothing like finding an old diary or journal to discover the attitudes and sentiments of the people who lived during a particular era. 

This past week I discovered a wonderful book called From Lochnaw to Manitoulin, which was edited by Durham native and now Owen Sound resident, Scott Mclean. From Lochnaw to Manitoulin is an edited excerpt from the diary of Lieut. Andrew Agnew of Lochnaw, Scotland.

Agnew was an officer in the 93rd Highland Regiment serving in Upper Canada. In the summer of 1839, he was given a two month leave to travel to Manitoulin Island to witness the "gift giving" ceremony. This ceremony was an annual event when the colonial government bestowed gifts upon the natives who lived in the Great Lakes area. 

The British government gave gifts that included copper kettles, rifles, knives, gunpowder, shot and clothes not only to maintain a peaceful co-existence with the natives, but also to ensure their military support if necessary, 

Although this book does not deal specifically with the Grey and Bruce region, it contains information which is not only interesting but also gives a better understanding of what the early settlers to this region may have faced when they arrived here in the decade following Agnew's adventure. 

Agnew left Toronto on July 19, 1839, by coach, following the same route that would bring many pioneers to the settlement that would become Owen Sound. 

The diary describes each leg of that trek in detail, including the time spent each day traveling. For instance, on that first day of the journey their coach traveled 36 miles in 8 hours and 40 minutes. 

The next day, after a short coach ride, the Agnew party boarded a steamer. Their trip across Lake Simcoe took them to Barrie and on to Lake Couchiching. After spending the night aboard the vessel they canoed the Severn River. Two more days of paddling and hiking brought them to Penetanguishene. 

On July 26, they left Penetanguishene in six canoes and paddled through the maze of islands that dot the eastern shoreline of Georgian Bay. 

The book details the rigours of the journey and provides the reader with insight into what the Georgian Bay region looked like during that era including the abundance of wild life in the area. 

Agnew's diary provides the reader with details with the regards to the natives, as well as a detailed description of the actual "gift giving" ceremony. 

After his visit to Manitoulin, Agnew traveled on to Sault Ste. Marie. His description of traveling the north shore provides us with insight to the rigours which travellers faced when they sailed the same waters only a decade later. 

From Lochnaw to Manitoulin is well-worth the read and is published by Natural Heritage Press.

A version of this story first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times.

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From Lochnaw to Manitoulin - A Review this book details through a soldier's diary a trip from Penetanguishene to Manitoulin Island in 1839.

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