Katherine Vanderzwet

Photo from back of author’s book

Originally from Bobcaygeon, Vanderzwet is a writer living in Omemee.

A certified lifestyle and wellness coach and personal trainer, she published her first book in 2012, Be Well: unlock the health and wellness that you deserve


Be Well: unlock the health and wellness that you deserve (2012)




Charles Cooper

Charles Cooper at Beeton, ON end-of-steel 1999. Photo: Andrea Percy from author’s website.

Charles Louis Cooper (1933-2023) was born on 2 July 1933 in Berlin to a German father and English mother. His family hid in the Germany countryside during the Second World War. After the war, Cooper moved to England and studied at Cambridge. He moved to Canada in 1957.

He got his love for trains when lived in Europe and always wanted to work on the railway. He ended up working in insurance and trains became his pastime. He was an honorary member of the Lindsay & District Model Railroaders and had a large model train set-up in his basement.

Cooper also spent his time researching railroad history and writing books. Rails to the Lake was published by Boston Mills Press in 1980. Hamilton’s Other Railway expanded on the first book and was published in 2001.

Narrow Gauge for Us recounts the history of the Toronto-Nippissing line that partly ran through Kawartha Lakes. It was published in 1982.

After Omer Lavalleee passed away, leaving his manuscript incomplete, Cooper took on the role of seeing the book to completion, and Canadian Pacific to the East – the International of Maine Division was published in 2007. That year the book won the Canadian Railroad Historical Association’s book award.

Cooper also kept a lively website at Charles Cooper’s Railway Pages.

Cooper passed away on 13 February 2023 at the Ross Memorial Hospital in Lindsay.


Rails to the Lake (1980)

Narrow Gauge for Us (1982)

Hamilton’s Other Railway (2001)

Canadian Pacific to the East – the International of Main Division (2007)


Charles Cooper’s Railway Pages.

Nolan, Daniel. “Obituary: Historian Charles Cooper was fascinated by Hamilton railways”. Toronto Star. 13 March 2023.

Honorary L&DMR member and renowned author Charles Cooper“. Lindsay & District Model Railroaders. 14 February 2023.

William Arthur Deacon

William Arthur Deacon (1890-1977) was one of the most powerful and influential writers/editors in Canada from 1922-1961. He could make or break authors’ careers. And he did.

Image source: Trent University

Born in Pembroke on 6 April 1890, the son of William Henry Deacon, a lawyer, and Sarah Ann Davies, daughter of a printer. His father died when he was very young. His mother moved in with her parents.

Deacon studied law at Stanstead College, but while there, two things happened that changed his intended career path, both literary readings, and each inspiring to Deacon. And then in 1905, he read his own first paper to the college literary society and from that moment, never lost the desire to write– or get a reaction from an audience.

In 1907, Deacon entered Victoria College in Toronto, where he met E.J. Pratt, and wrote for the campus magazine, of which Viola Whitney (future Mrs. E.J. Pratt) was the editor. He also met another life-long friend in Arthur L. Phelps, who went on to become Canada’s foremost culture critic. But Victoria College wasn’t working for Deacon, and he left during his second year.

Deacon drifted through various jobs until finally deciding to marry Gladys Coon of Weston, Ontario, and return to Dauphin, Manitoba, where he could article in law. Later in life, Deacon would look back on these years as ‘the ten lost years’ of his life, given to the law career he ended up not pursuing.

Around 1916 Deacon and Gladys discovered theosophy, and eventually founded Winnipeg’s second lodge. Deacon felt theosophy and Methodism converged nicely in their teaching responsibilities.

He truly believed that the printed word could change the world. He held as axiomatic the belief that Canadians were a vital and dynamic people who would require, demand, and produce a correspondingly dynamic literature. He came to see himself as herald, prophet, preacher, and custodian of that literature.

Clara Thomas and John Lennox. William Arthur Deacon: a Canadian literary life. (1982)

He found law boring and frustrating; theosophy convinced him that he was destined to write.

In 1921, the Manitoba Free Press employed Deacon as a contributing editor to their newly established monthly literary and book review section. They called him their ‘Honorary Literary Editor.’ This was novel; up until 1921 Canadian newspapers didn’t care about books. Only about a dozen printed book reviews.

Deacon submitted book reviews and editorials to The New York Times, The Stairway, the New York Evening Post, and The National Pictorial, to name a few.

He helped found the Winnipeg branch of the Canadian Authors’ Association.

But his big break came in 1922 when he joined Saturday Night magazine and achieved his dream of becoming ‘the first full-time, professional book reviewer that Canada had ever seen.’

It also coincided with the end of his marriage to Gladys. In 1918 he met fellow theosophist, Mrs. Sally Townsend Syme, and the two believed they were destined for each other, despite both already being married. They continued to correspond with each other until 1922 when Sally joined Deacon in Toronto.

After Deacon moved to Toronto, he and Sally became frequent guests at his friends’ cottages in Bobcaygeon. Phelps was the first to establish a cottage there, followed by Pratt in 1921. Finally, in 1925, in $400 instalments, Deacon acquired his own Bobcaygeon land, and by 1928 had built a cabin on it.

Phelps helped Deacon make connections in their literary circles. He helped Deacon get the job with Saturday Night magazine. He introduced Deacon to Lorne Pierce of Ryerson Publishing, who then picked up Deacon’s books, Pens and Pirates and Peter McArthur. Phelps took Deacon to the Arts and Letters Club, bringing him to a wider literary network.

Deacon gave up his Bobcaygeon cottage by 1932, when he heard about the Canadian Institute on Economics and Politics held annually at Geneva Park, Lake Couchiching, and began spending summer vacations at Wilson’s Point, Orillia, merely four miles from Geneva Park– he gave up the Bobcaygeon cottage to continue to pursue his belief that he could change the world.

Deacon and Pratt family in Bobcaygeon. c 1930.

Deacon was now professionally placed where he could make or break an author’s career.

His friend, Arthur Phelps wrote to him: “I’ve backed three horses, Deacon, Pratt, and Grove. Place ’em in Canadian Literature, will you?” (William Arthur Deacon, page 67)

His reviews of Pratt’s work was favourable.

And same for Grove. When Grove’s book, Settlers of the Marsh, became the subject of a book ban and the author poise to go bankrupt, Phelps asked Deacon to find speaking engagements for Grove in Toronto. Two years later, Deacon sent Grove on a speaking tour across the country, using his contacts with the Canadian Club and the publicity department for the Canadian National Railway.

Grove is just one example of a Deacon-made career. But not all authors got the white glove treatment.

Deacon had a particular problem with Lucy Maud Montgomery. Jealousy, likely. His books sold only a few hundred copies, while hers were being translated and sold around the world. In his essay on Canadian literature in his book, Poteen, he says, “As for the ‘girls’ sugary stories begun with Anne of Green Gables... Canadian fiction was to go no lower.” He had a set idea of what Canadian literature should be and Montgomery was not it.

Lucy Maud Montgomery received a similarly misogynist response when she was running for the executive of the Toronto Branch. Montgomery’s biographer Mary Henley Rubio notes that “The Canadian Authors Association had been very important to Maud after [her] move to Toronto. The CAA was a lifeline, in fact, that pulled her out of her personal stress at home” (p. 529). On April 8, 1938, however, at an election for a new executive, Montgomery was pushed out by Deacon. She writes in her journal: “The election of a new executive was held and I was elbowed out. It is not worthwhile going into details. Deacon had it all planned very astutely and things went exactly as he had foreseen. I at
once withdrew my name from the list of candidates” [Mary Henley Rubino, Lucy Maud Montgomery: the gift of wings. 2008. p. 530]. …. If this is the treatment received by authors of their stature, one can only imagine the treatment accorded to amateur writers in the association

Christopher M. Doody. “A Union of the inkpot: the Canadian Authors’ Association, 1921-1960.” 2016.

Deacon was completely dedicated to his non-commercial, literary and democratic principles.

He played a primary role in the establishment of the Governor General’s Awards for Literature and had influence over the judges and titles selected. His friend E.J. Pratt won three times. His friend Fredrick Philip Grove won once. E.K. Brown, another of the Bobcaygeon Boys’ visitors, won once. Arthur R.M. Lower, who was Arthur L. Phelps’s biographer, won a couple times. Laura Salverson, who corresponded with Deacon for years, won once. His personal friend Stephen Leacock won in 1937. Bertram Booker, Franklin Davey McDowell– the list goes on of Deacon’s friends who took home Canada’s top literary prize.

Deacon loved leadership and the feeling of power to influence events; he also loved to be seen to be leading.

He recruited his friends to write book reviews, including his wife writing as Sally Townsend, E.J. Pratt, Viola Pratt, Arthur Phelps and many others.

His review philosophy was solid and many of today’s reviewers could stand to learn a thing or two:

But NEVER put on a [heading] which will keep readers from reading your article. The chief function of man may be to glorify God; but the chief function and aim of a writer is to get himself read. Put on a [heading] which will entice your reader, rouse his curiosity, tempt him to plunge into the text below. Don’t drive him away by proclaiming that the whole thing is a bore. You break that gently to him later.

William Arthur Deacon, page 220.

In 1967, Sally was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. She passed away two years later. Deacon was unable to do any serious writing after Sally’s illness, even withdrawing his centennial grant application. Over the next years, he suffered small strokes until he passed away in August 1977.


Saturday Night (1922-1928)

Toronto Mail and Empire (1928-1936)

The Globe and Mail (1936-1961)


Pens and Pirates (1923)

Poteen and other essays (1926)

The Four Jameses (1927)

My Vision of Canada (1933)

Further Reading:

William Arthur Deacon: a Canadian literary life. Clara Thomas and John Lennox. University of Toronto Press. 1982.

E.J. Pratt: the truant years. David Pitt.

photo source of Deacon and Pratt family: Trent University:


Arthur L. Phelps

Arthur Leonard Phelps (1887-1970) was born in Columbus, Ontario on 1 December 1887, and in his lifetime moved around, but for a number of years he had a Bobcaygeon cottage. His ‘chap-book’, “Bobcaygeon: a sketch of a little town,” was published in Lindsay in 1922. Through his editing work and hosting a CBC radio show, Phelps influenced the development of a Canadian identity and was well-known as a critic of Canadian culture.

Phelps studied at Victoria College at the University of Toronto, where he met fellow writer, E. J. Pratt, and they became life-long friends.

It’s not known exactly when Phelps moved to Bobcaygeon, but in 1907 Phelps was working as assistant pastor in Bobcaygon, where he made numerous friends. He was also manager of the Bobcaygeon hockey team.

Sometime within the next few years, he bought a cottage in Bobcaygeon and lived there permanently. The April 1919 edition of Canadian Bookman described Phelps as “permanently a denizen of Bobcaygeon, Ont., but his ministerial function in connection with the Methodist Church keeps him supplied with a temporary address, which happens just now to be Bath, Ont.”

On 18 September 1914, Phelps married Lila Irene Nicholls, daughter of Thomas Henry Nicholls, a farmer in Verulam township, and Margaret Staples. Phelps and Lila were wed in Peterborough, Ontario.

In 1921 Phelps accepted a professorship at the Wesley College at the University of Manitoba where he was head of the English department. A year later, he asked his friend, and fellow KL writer, Watson Kirkconnell to work with him. At first Kirkconnell refused because English wasn’t his field of study. He studied the Classics at university. But then he changed his mind and accepted the position. Together they were the entire English department, with Kirkconnell teaching anything Phelps didn’t want.

During this time, Phelps kept the cottage at Bobcaygeon and spent his summers there. (Kirkconnell, A Slice of Canada: memoirs (1967).)

A visitor to the Bobcaygeon cottage crew was friend and fellow writer, Fredrick Phillip Grove. Grove named his son Leonard after Phelps and made Phelps the boy’s godfather. (“Afterword: genesis of a boys’ book.” Mary Rubino, 1982)

While at Wesley College, Phelps started the English Club, a discussion group for senior students, one of whom was Margaret Laurence. (Later, Laurence would move to Lakefield and become Chancellor to Trent University.)

Phelps stayed at Wesley College until 1945. He was awarded Fellowship in 1967.

Starting around 1940, Phelps was a radio broadcaster for the CBC, serving as a culture critic, trying to define a cultural identity for Canada. It was around this time when Canada was trying to define its own cultural identity as separate from Britain and the U.S.

Phelps has been widely quoted for saying, “a Canadian is one who is increasingly aware of being American in the continental sense, without being American in the national sense.” (The quote is from an article he wrote for The Listener, a BBC magazine, titled, “A Canadian looks back on the Royal Visit,” published in the 46th volume on Thursday, November 15, 1951.)

In 1947, Phelps became an English professor at Queen’s University, and while in Kingston, he hosted a radio show.

Kingston Radio Rewind has a video clip of Arthur Phelps on their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=419933333686408) and a look at the comments shows many fondly remember him.

In the summer of 1955, Phelps hosted a television program called “Cabbages and Kings.” Phelps moderated the panel discussion show from Vancouver. Participants and subjects included Northrop Frye on Canadians’ reading habits; CJOR newsman Jack Webster and lawyer Bill McConnell on television and radio; and McConnell, writer Roderick Haig-Brown, and Hugh Christie, warden of Oakville Prison Farm on crime and society.

Unfortunately, Phelps did not include the work of the iconic Lucy Maud Montgomery as significant to the culture and identity of Canada. At least not while she was alive to be included. Nine years after her death, Phelps included Montgomery in his book, Canadian Writers, listing her accomplishments alongside other writers as E.J. Pratt, Robert W. Service, Frederick Philip Grove, Archibald Lampman, Stephen Leacock and other notables. The first half of his Montgomery article discusses other “popular” fiction writers and their place in “respectable artistic achievement,” indeed, the entire issue with Montgomery’s work until now was that it was commercially successful and written for girls. In this article, Phelps admits he’d not read Montgomery’s work before and when he checked out four of her books from the library, he was reassured to find her work was still popular. Phelps finally gets around to writing about Montgomery and her work in the last two pages of the article.

Phelps missed the mark on the draw of Montgomery’s work, though. He called her writing old fashioned, sentimental, nostalgic, and said, “L.M. Montgomery’s stories have qualities of range and subtlety and fine comprehension which make them relatively worthy.” He said, “the Island, the sea, the people of the Island, come alive in the telling. All this came about because L.M. Montgomery knew her Island– its places, its people– and, with direct unpretentious simplicity, through her an, was able to communicate something of what she knew.” (Canadian Writers, 1951.)

But Montgomery does not remain commercially successful even today because of nostalgia or because she knew the Island and its people. She remains popular because she gave girls a hero in Anne. She remains popular because Anne showed girls that it was okay to be angry and to feel alone.

It’s unfortunate that the fight between “commercially successful” and “literarily relevant” remains today.

Phelps’s first wife, Lila died in 1965. Phelps remarried in 1968 to Margaret Duncan. The 1921 census shows Phelps and Lila living with his parents in the Toronto area. They didn’t have children at that time. His obituary mentions his daughter Ann, married to John David Hamilton. The University of Manitoba notes the Phelps fonds were donated by his granddaughters, Meg and Kate Hamilton in 1997.

After Phelps was diagnosed with cancer, he was allowed to continue his radio show from his sick bed. He passed away April 27, 1970 at his home at 47 Earl Street in Kingston and was buried in Bobcaygeon. (Globe & Mail, 29 April 1970 page 41.)


Poems (1921)

Bobcaygeon: a chap-book (1922)

The Poetry of Today. (1917)

This Canada: A series of broadcasts. (1940)

These United States: A series of broadcasts. (1941)

Community and culture. (1947)

Canadian Writers. (1951)

“Introduction” for Habitant Poems by William Henry Drummond (1961)

Further Reading:

Another Bobcaygeon Chapbook, reprint 2016, combines Bobcaygeon: a chap-book (1922) and “Bobcaygeon” the poem (1919) and can be purchased here: https://conwaybooks.wordpress.com/2016/05/13/peterboriana-series/

There’s a wealth of Phelps’s work at Canada’s Library and Archives, particularly in the archived Film, Video and Sound collection.

In 1971, Arthur R. M. Lower published a brief biography of Phelps, “Arthur Leonard Phelps (1887-1970),” a chapter in the book, Proceedings of The Royal Society of Canada, series IV, volume IX, 1971, pages 94-96.


Edwin John Pratt

Edwin John Dove Pratt (1882-1964) was primarily Torontonian, but had a cottage in the Bobcaygeon area. He was a three-time winner of the Governor General’s Award for poetry and winner of many other awards, including in 1946, Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George by King George VI.

In 1935, the Montreal branch of the Canadian Authors Association had been running a successful annual poetry contest. They appointed a committee to see if publishing a periodical would be financially feasible. Disappointed by the results, they decided to not go through with the project.

One member of the CAA’s executive, another local Kawartha Lakes writer, E. A. Hardy heard about the end of the project and urged the national executive to take it on as a means of doing something for the entire membership. They agreed and the first issue of Canadian Poetry magazine was published in 1936. Pratt was appointed editor and served in that role until 1943.

EJ Pratt and Clare Pratt in Bobcaygeon, c 1931.

Pratt was born in Newfoundland on 4 February 1882, where he also trained to be a minister like his father, but instead went on to study psychology and theology at Victoria College at the University of Toronto. Themes of religion and psychology would thread his poetry.

While at Victoria College, Pratt met Viola Whitney, where they both worked for the college newspaper, of which Viola was the editor. Viola was also a writer and would go on to be a magazine editor. After four years of engagement, they married 20 August 1918.

Their daughter Claire was born in 1921. At just four years old, Claire contracted polio. The disease would affect the rest of her life, but not prevent her from becoming a publishing editor and author.

While at Victoria College, he met life-long friend, Arthur L. Phelps, another Bobcaygeon cottager and writer.

The Pratts visited Phelps and his wife Lila at their new Bobcaygeon home, and were immediately taken with it. Pratt almost bought a Bobcaygeon cottage in September 1918, but it didn’t work out. It wasn’t until 1921 when Pratt finally bought the Bobcaygeon cottage where he would do most of his writing during his summer vacations from his work at the University of Toronto.

Viola Pratt said, “Ned loved the place, which surprised me at first, because he wasn’t the type who ordinarily enjoyed ‘roughing it in the bush.’ He hated the mosquitoes — and we surely had lots — but he devised ways to combat them, and after a while he didn’t mind so much… It was really a delightful spot, right on the lake, surrounded by trees, mostly cedars, with a clearing out back that we called the Glade.” (Pitt. E.J. Pratt: the truant years. p. 199)

The Pratts financially extended themselves to acquire the cottage. They didn’t have a car; they took the train from Toronto to Bobcaygeon.

Pratt started a backyard garden, growing corn, beans, tomatoes, and squash. He’d hoped to grown enormous squash.

Pratt built himself a small cabin away from the cottage, where he went to write.

Pratt became a weekend host to his friends. He even picked them up at the train station– in a canoe. Weekend pastimes included canoe trips to Nogie’s Creek, a cookout at the stone fireplace by the lakeshore, and poetry readings.

The Bobcaygeon summers, especially the early ones were golden times for Pratt, among the happiest he would ever know… halcyon days.

Pitt. E.J. Pratt: the Truant years.

Among his guests were William Arthur Deacon, who also bought a cottage nearby, Fredrick Philip Grove, Pelham Edgar, E.K. Brown.

Pratt was known to lend the cottage, as he did to Deacon in 1926 when Deacon and family were looking to get away from the city. Pratt wrote to Deacon, “From the 15th of June until July 20th it is at your disposal. Why not send Mrs Deacon and the Kiddies up there on the earlier date, you going, say, week ends till your vacation starts. The Phelpses are next door and will give her all the advice re food and other desirables. By then the lettuce will be up and by July the peas ought to be forming. The strawberries look promising.” (https://www.trentu.ca/faculty/pratt/letters/texts/260603dea.html)

Pratt family with Deacon family, c. 1930.

Frederick Varley, one of the founding members of the Group of Seven, was the artist for E.J. Pratt’s Newfoundland Verse (1923). When Varley and his family were evicted from their Toronto house, Pratt let Varley, his wife Maud and their four children camp in a tent on the lot next to the Pratt’s cottage. “A large army tent pitched on a wooden platform supplied them with at least a shelter from the elements, and the Pratt cottage the necessary domestic facilities. Not infrequently too the grocery bill to feed five extra mouths was paid out of Pratt’s meagre pocket.” (Pitt. E.J. Pratt: the truant years. p. 226.)

During that time, Varley made a charcoal sketch of his wife Maud with their youngest son, Peter, curled up in her lap. The tent can be seen in the upper left corner. The sketch, titled Bobcaygeon, 1923 (private collection), was sold in 1926 by Maud to raise enough funds for her to travel with the children to Vancouver. Varley painted a similar picture, Evening in Camp, 1923 (private collection.) (Katerina Atanassova, F.H. Varley: portraits into the light, Dundurn Press. 2007.)

Sometimes Pratt’s summer retreats involved golfing in Lindsay with Watson Kirkconnell.

[Pratt] needed a little relaxation before completing his preparations for what he was already planning to make a ‘triumphal progress.’ Having promised Kirkconnell a few games of golf on the course at nearby Lindsay, where ‘Kirk’ usually spent his summers, Pratt took his clubs with him and during the first week or so of his holiday pleasantly indulged himself in his favourite sport for almost the first time since the previous autumn.

David G. Pitt. E.J. Pratt: the master years (1927-1964), page 22.

As he was closing the cottage in the autumn of 1925, Pratt asked a local handyman to build a swimming dock, using the wood from Varley’s tent platform. Pratt wanted “an enclosure in which little Claire might paddle, safe from the remnants of submerged tree stumps and the danger of going beyond her depth.” He suggested if the the handyman needed more lumber he could get it from the local lumber ‘magnate’ and building contractor (i.e. Mossom Boyd Lumber Company.)

What Pratt found the following spring was “a leviathan of a wharf.” It seems the handyman placed an order in Pratt’s name with the contractor for an “Ontario dock,” or pier. It was built by half-a-dozen carpenters and “vast quantities of the best materials.” Arthur Phelps described it as big enough “to tie up an ocean liner at if one ever came into the Kawartha region.”

The bill was equally as enormous. Pratt, feeling he’d been tricked into the large pier, chose to fight. He wrote his tale in full to a lawyer. The lawyer agreed to appear in court in Lindsay, if the case went to trial, which it did not. Both parties agreed to compromise. Pratt ended up paying $200 and the “magnate” withdrew his suit for further payment. (Pitt. E.J. Pratt: the truant years. page 298-299.)

The summer of 1935 was the last summer in Bobcaygeon for Pratt. Financial reasons due to Claire’s numerous operations and the economy of the times, forced Pratt into one of the hardest decisions he had ever made. The cottage was in need of numerous repairs, but ultimately the decision to sell was due to Claire: “her condition was unlikely to permit her ever again to take full advantage of the natural amenities, swimming in particular,” which Pratt felt was the best thing about Bobcaygeon. (Pitt. E.J. Pratt: the master years. page 164-165.)

That last summer at the cottage, Pratt wrote The Titanic, a dark, tragic poem that he found depressing and was glad when he finished it.

Pratt never returned to Bobcaygeon, though he missed the cottage days and would reminisce with his friends of his halcyon days there.

Pratt’s cottage was featured in John Robert Columbo’s Canadian Literary Landmarks (1984.) At the time of printing, the cottage was still standing. Overlooking Sturgeon Lake, the cottage had a verandah and a green den, according to the brief write-up.

Arthur Phelps said, “One of the best things that ever happened to Ned Pratt was his marrying Viola Whitney. Up until then he was just drifting hither and yon with every tide that rose and fell. He had no settled way of life, no regular job, not actual goal in life. And this was bound to militate against any real creativity. But after he got married all that began to change…” (Pitt. E.J. Pratt: the truant years. p. 172)

But without his cottage, it seems Pratt became untethered.

In the summer of 1937, Pratt went to teach summer school at the University of British Columbia where he began an extramarital affair with a graduate student. She transferred to Victoria College (Toronto) in the fall and the affair continued until the spring of 1938. Although his college friends knew about the affair and encouraged him to end it, his wife and daughter never knew and the affair never affected his career. (http://www.trentu.ca/faculty/pratt/letters/texts/38springdea.html)

Pratt is internationally famous for his epic poems of national significance. He won the Governor General’s Award three times: in 1937 for The Fable of the Goats and other Poems; in 1940 for Brébeuf and his Brethren; and in 1952, for Towards the Last Spike.

But his works have been criticized for racism.

In 1966, F. R. Scott published the poem, “All the Spikes but the Last,” in response to Pratt’s “Towards the Last Spike,” calling out Pratt’s omission of the Chinese workers. Over 17,000 Chinese people came to Canada to work on the railroad. Over 700 were killed due to unsafe working conditions. The last spike was the only spike driven by white people.

Pratt was also known for misogeny.

His biographer, David Pitt writes, Pratt had been a “faithful if less than zealous member [of the Canadian Authors’ Association]. But he had no wish to be anything more, partly one gathers, because a large proportion of the Toronto membership was made up of ‘literary females,’ a species of which he was not particularly fond.” (Pitt, E.J. Pratt: the truant years. pages 312-313.)

Pratt and his friends Deacon and Edgar were not at all kind to women authors, even if the women were incredibly successful, as seen these notes about how they treated Madge Macbeth and Lucy Maud Montgomery:

Although it did have slightly more women members, the association was continually run by men, some of whom fought against female leadership. Carole Gerson, for example, points to an example of this “gendered subtext to Canadian literary politics” in Kathryn Colquhorn’s description of Madge Macbeth’s reception at a C.A.A. convention. Macbeth went to Toronto to make a speech at the Annual C.A.A. dinner:

[Macbeth] had a pretty mean reception here . . . Pratt was in the chair and he, and Prof. De Lury, spoke so long, that she didn’t get a chance to say a word. A lot of people thought that it was a put up job, as Pratt had charge of things as chairman. Then, when she was elected National President, none of the Executive, Pratt, Deacon, or Edgar, attended the Convention. (Kathryn Colquhorn qtd. in Gerson “The Canon” 54)

Christopher M. Doody. “A Union of the inkpot: the Canadian Authors’ Association, 1921-1960.” 2016.

E. J. Pratt died 26 April 1964 in Toronto.

He was designated a Person of Historical Significance in 1975.

The library at Victoria College in Toronto was named after him and contains his fonds. The university also awards the E.J. Pratt Medal and Prize for poetry and past winners included Margaret Atwood and Michael Ondaatje.

The University of Toronto created the E.J. Pratt Chair in Canadian Literature, which since its founding has been held by George Elliot Clarke.

In 1983, Canada Post issued an E.J. Pratt commemorative stamp.


Rachel: a sea story of Newfoundland, (1917)

Newfoundland Verse (1923)

The Witches’ Brew (1925)

Titans (“The Cachalot, The Great Feud”) (1926)

The Iron Door: An Ode (1927)

The Roosevelt and the Antinoe (1930)

Verses of the Sea (1930)

Many Moods (1932)

The Titanic (1935)

New Provinces: Poems of Several Authors (1936)

The Fable of the Goats and Other Poems (1937) 

Brebeuf and his Brethren (1940)

Dunkirk (1941)

Still Life and Other Verse (1943)

Collected Poems of E. J. Pratt (1944)

They Are Returning (1945)

Behind the Log (1947)

Ten Selected Poems (1947)

Towards the Last Spike (1952)

“Magic in Everything” [Christmas card] (1956)

Collected Poems of E. J. Pratt (1958)

The Royal Visit: 1959 (1959)

Here the Tides Flow (1962)


Studies in Pauline Eschatology (1917)

“Canadian Poetry – Past and Present,” University of Toronto Quarterly, VIII:1 (Oct. 1938)


Thomas Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tre. (1937)

Heroic Tales in Verse (1941)

Further Reading:

E. J. Pratt: The Truant Years 1882-1927. David G. Pitt. (1984)

E. J. Pratt: the Master Years 1927-1964. David G. Pitt (1987)

“A Union of the inkpot: the Canadian Authors’ Association, 1921-1960” Christopher M. Doody. (2016) https://curve.carleton.ca/system/files/etd/2ba135b5-e6aa-4948-88db-475bc1459398/etd_pdf/bc7ec72be549d1074904d707d90adb1a/doody-aunionoftheinkpotthecanadianauthorsassociation.pdf

The Hypertext Pratt, a project by Trent University: http://www.trentu.ca/faculty/pratt/welcome.html

Pratt photo source: Trent University: https://www.trentu.ca/faculty/pratt/graphics/illustrations/pratt1931_claire.jpg

Pratts with Deacons photo source: Trent University: https://www.trentu.ca/faculty/pratt/timeline/illustrations/pratt1930c_family_deacon.html

Lucy Maud Montgomery: the gift of wings. Mary Henley Rubino. Doubleday Canada. (2008)

“The Canon between the Wars: Field-notes of a Feminist Literary Archaeologist.” Carole Gerson. Canadian Canons: Essays in Literary Value (1991)

Thomas Phillips Thompson

Thomas Phillips Thompson (1843-1933) was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in England on 25 November 1843. He emigrated to Canada with his family in 1857. The family spent some time in Lindsay (appear on the 1861 census in Lindsay) before settling in St. Catherines.

Thompson studied law and was admitted to the bar, but instead became a journalist for the St. Catherines Post. He covered the Fenian raids as a correspondent for the Montreal Herald.

In 1867, he became a police reporter for the Toronto Daily Telegraph.

Around 1870, he wrote a weekly political column under the pseudonym “Jimuel Briggs, D.B., graduate of Coboconk University.”

The column was satire, making fun of the law and politics, and giving Thompson a name as a humourist.

In 1873, a collection of the columns was published as The political experiences of Jimuel Briggs, D.B., at Toronto, Ottawa and elsewhere. (D.B. stood for “Dead Beat.”)

Other fictitious local references in his columns include the newspapers (the Coboconk Irradiator and the Coboconk Progressionist), the Coboconk Reform League, and the Bummer’s Roost (a “most aristocratic hotel”.) As for real references, Thompson mentions the Toronto and Nipissing Railway as well as Laidlaw.

Note the purchase price on the cover: 5 drinks.

On 2 February 1872, Thompson married Delia Florence Fisher. They had 3 daughters, Clara Florence, Laura Beatrice, Edith Maud and 1 son, William Phillips who died in childhood. Delia died in 1897. Two years later, Thompson married her sister, Edith, who was 13 years younger. In 1901, they had a son, Phillips Whitman.

Laura Beatrice Thompson married Francis George Berton. They had two children: Lucy Woodward and Pierre Berton.

In 1874, Thompson helped found The National, a weekly journal that supported the Canada First movement.

By 1883, his career was flourishing. Thompson accepted an editorial position at the Toronto Evening News. During this time he began writing in the weekly journal of the Knights of Labor.

He died in Oakville on 20 May 1933, well-known as one of Canada’s most influential labour writers of the late 19th century.


The Future Government of Canada: being arguments in favor of a British American independent republic, comprising a refutation of the position taken by the Hon. T. D’Arcy McGee in the British American magazine, for a monarchical form of government. (1864)

The political experiences of Jimuel Briggs, DB, at Toronto, Ottawa and elsewhere. (1873)

The Politics of Labor. (1887)

Thoughts and Suggestions on the Social Problem and Things in General. (1995)

The Labor Reform Songster. (1892)

Further Reading:






Get your Coboconk University t-shirt now!

Sandy O’Shea

Sandy O’Shea. Photo from author’s website.

Originally from the Ajax area, where she graduated from the Ajax high school, O’Shea moved to Lindsay in 2020 and started her business, Let’s Talk Sex with Sandy.

In October 2022, O’Shea started a Facebook group for anyone to join “that would share activities they enjoyed, events that were happening, ideas for getting together.” (Whitnall. KLTW.) Within a few days the group had more than 200 members. (Visit the group: Kawartha Coffee and Conversation.)

O’Shea, a holistic sexpert, “specializes in supporting women through hormonal changes from perimenopause to menopause and beyond, helping them manage stress and embrace their confidence and sexual power. For men, she offers guidance on stress management and erectile dysfunction. Sandy is also passionate about helping couples reconnect and reignite the passion and intimacy they once shared.”

In February 2023, O’Shea published her first work of fiction, When Friends Become Lovers. The erotic story follows Nancy as she embarks on a new relationship after two failed long-term relationships.

O’Shea is working on her forthcoming memoir, From Invisible to Technicolor.

Find out more at: https://letstalksexwithsandy.com/


Let’s Talk Sex with Sandy: what you need to know about sex, hormones and nutrition to be your best, most vibrant, sexy self (2018)

When Friends Become Lovers (2023)


CBC Morning interview (March 2023)

“New Facebook group helps make Kawartha connections.” Catherine Whitnall. Kawartha Lakes This Week. (15 Nov. 2022.)

Eliza Silverwood Routley

Eliza Silverwood was born in Lindsay on 24 March 1858. She married Obadiah William Routley on 15 January 1879 in Woodville.

Woodville Advocate, 23 January 1879.

Her father, William A. Silverwood was the inspector of weights and measures for the county. He was also an auctioneer.

Woodville Advocate, 21 November 1878.

One of Eliza’s younger brothers was A.E. Silverwood, the man who started Silverwood’s Dairy. (The Kawartha Lakes Museum & Archives in Lindsay currently has an exhibit about the history of Silverwood’s Dairy.)

Eliza and Obadiah lived on a farm in Eldon township until approximately 1901 when the family moved to Lindsay, where they rented a house on Lindsay Street South and Obadiah worked as a carpenter. Around 1904, Obadiah and Eliza moved to 149 Close Avenue in Toronto where Obadiah continued the carpenter trade and built houses. They had six children.

In 1913, Eliza’s book, New Year Blessings, was published by William Briggs in Toronto. The book contains an uplifting statement for each day of the year, organized by weeks, so the book can be reused every year.

Here’s the page for this week:

The book is available at the Internet Archive, courtesy of the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library.

On March 21, 1924, Eliza Silverwood Routley passed away at her home at 149 Close Avenue, Toronto. (The house is gone, replaced by a Catholic school.)

Lindsay Daily Post, 22 March 1924. Courtesy Kawartha Lakes Museum & Archives.


New Year Blessings (1913)


Canada Census 1881, 1901, 1911

Lindsay Voters Lists 1901, 1903, 1904

Might’s Greater Toronto City Directory 1916

Woodville Advocate, digitally available courtesy of Kawartha Lakes Public Library

Viola Whitney Pratt

Viola Leone Whitney (1892-1984) was born in Atherley, Ontario on 23 February 1892. She completed grade eight when she was eleven and graduated Orillia Collegiate at age 15. Too young to attend university, she stayed home and studied music until she tired of it. She turned to teaching and was employed in Zephyr. She entered Victoria College at the University of Toronto in 1909, where she was editor of the student literary journal, graduated in 1913, she attended the Ontario College of Education and then went on to teach in Amherstburg, Renfrew and St. Mary’s.

On 20 August 1918, she married Edwin John Pratt. They had one daughter, Mildred Claire Pratt, born in 1921.

From 1920 to 1936, the Pratt family kept a cottage in Bobcaygeon on Sturgeon Lake, where the family spent their summers.

Viola was a founding member and editor of World Friends, a magazine for children published by the Women’s Missionary Society of the United Church of Canada. She retired from her editorial position in 1955.

In the 1930s, Viola was president of the Canadian Authors’ Association.

She read to blind students at the University during and after the Second World War.

She wrote book reviews for the Globe and Mail.

Viola was an essayist and public speaker. These were collected and published in a book edited by her daughter Claire Pratt, Viola Whitney Pratt: Papers and Speeches (1990.)

In 1956, Viola was awarded an Honourary Doctorate of Sacred Letters from Victoria University.


World Friends

One Family (1937)

Famous Doctors (1956)

Journeying with the Year: a world friends anthology, Women’s Missionary Society of Canada (1957)

Further Reading:

Viola Whitney Pratt: papers and speeches (1990), Claire Pratt.

Viola Whitney Pratt at Canada’s Early Women Writers Project

Viola Leone Whitney Pratt fonds at University of Toronto

An Evening with Dorothy Thompson

On May 23, 2013, we attended the launch of Dorothy L. Thompson’s book, Threads from the Loom of Time. Please enjoy the write-up from this event, and our biography of Dorothy Lenore Thompson (1941-2020)

Dorothy Thompson at book launch at Lindsay branch library.

On May 23, 2013, the Kawartha Lakes Public Library hosted Dorothy Thompson, author of Threads From The Loom Of Time, as part of the Local Author Series. Chief Librarian Linda Kent introduced Thompson to a crowded, eager roomful. Thompson captivated the audience with passages read aloud from her book and photos of her ancestors.

Threads From The Loom Of Time is a fictionalized account of the life and times of Thompson’s ancestors. Her book could be considered part of a genre with the freshly-coined term “faction”, meaning fiction based on facts, for Thompson’s book is made up of the stories about her grandparents handed down through the generations.

Her story also covers a fair bit of history in Ontario. Ever heard of The Battle of Crysler’s Farm? When Thompson’s Casselman ancestors emigrated to Canada, they owned land along the…

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