Huntley history on display

CARP – Inside a small out building at the Carp Airport is a treasure trove of West Carleton history filled with more than 1,200 items dating back to a time when living in the country was a much bigger challenge then it is now.

There was no Internet, there weren’t many cars, and there certainly weren’t any cell phones. But there were horses, trains and hotels and other signs that getting tasks done may take more patience then people seem to have today.

And all those items were on display at the Huntley Historical Society (HHS) Open House and Displays held last Saturday (Oct. 19). The Borden Building is a small building, and not designed to be a museum, but it serves the members of the society well, although it’s bursting at the seems with all the artifacts and documents housed inside.

It hasn’t stopped the society from adding to its collection though – who else will take it?

“People offer you stuff, but we don’t really have the room,” HHS board member Joan Caldwell told West Carleton Online. “But you don’t want to say no. You want to collect things that are valuable to the community. Some of the things we have, we have neither the funds or the time to properly restore and properly display them.”

So, the HHS collection, some 1,200 items strong, is varied.

In a room sitting by a doorway is a pedal-powered dentist’s drill. We cringe just describing the artifact. Dr. Alvin Cavanagh, in the 1930s and 1940s, would not only operate the drill while working on a patient’s teeth – he would provide the power. Dr. Cavanagh lived in Kinburn but his dentist’s office was in Carp. We imagine you would need a pretty smooth cycle to keep the drill at a consistent, high-speed spin.

“I remember you would pedal it, and it would hurt,” Caldwell said. “He didn’t want to be a dentist. He wanted to be a train engineer.”

There is a leather veterinarian’s bag from the early 1900s filled to the brim with strange, old, rusty medical tools on the floor. It looks as if Dr. Patrick Lynchke could have just walked in the door from a house call and dropped his bag in the corner after a long day.

Dr. Patrick Lynchke's veterinary bag from the 1900s. Photo by Jake Davies
Dr. Patrick Lynchke’s veterinary bag from the 1900s. Photo by Jake Davies

“There’s a lot of history in that bag,” Caldwell said.

Caldwell digs behind some artifacts and pulls out a large, framed map. It has to be almost six feet tall. It’s a design plan for the Village of Carp dating back to 1898.

The HHS's Joan Caldwell stands beside a development map of the Village of Carp dating back to 1898. Photo by Jake Davies
The HHS’s Joan Caldwell stands beside a development map of the Village of Carp dating back to 1898. Photo by Jake Davies

“Carp followed it pretty well, but some roads weren’t finished,” Caldwell said.

So, a visit to the HHS Open House is a trip back in time. You can’t find the history of West Carleton in any of Ottawa’s marquee museums. But there it is in an ‘historic’ building at the Carp Airport, spread around the Borden Building on shelves, the floor, desks, tables and anywhere else the HSS can find a spot to squeeze it in.

The HHS was formed in 1985. The constitution of the society, which was originally adopted on the ninth of October, 1987, defined the purposes and objects of The Huntley Township Historical Society as: To collect historical and genealogical material and establish a repository of information and artifacts on the former Huntley Township for research purposes and as a contribution to Canadian history, and to publish and display related materials.

For more information on the Huntley Historical Society visit their website at