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History Text

The Island
By: Teresa Mask Beanish


Mrs. Teresa Mask Beanish was interviewed at her home on MaskIsland

 Mask Island was registered as Welshman's Island. What is now known as Mask Island was registered as Welshman's Island in the District of Nippissing, in 1873. It's recorded, mind you. And I've traced it from then, right down to when my Dad purchased it, and then it was taken over by my brother after Dad passed away.

There was Indians living on it before. Then, on the 19th of March, 1873 the island was registered to an Edward Williams. He was a Welshman. That's why they called it Welshman's Island.

 It was recorded as 186 or 190 acres.

Williams lived ten years here, from 1873 to 1883. Then he sold it to Arthur and Martha Acton in 1883. In 1893 they sold it to Robinson and Reeves. William Dunn and his wife Ann had it from 1893 to 1896, they weren't here too long. Then Francis Dunn was here from 1896 to 1909. And then John Billings was here from 1909 to 1913. Then Albert White bought it in 1913 and he sold it in November of 1917 to Paul B. Mask, my father.

 My father closed the deal on the day I was born, November the 24th, 1917. We moved on March 1918, when the ice was settled.

Tomahawks and things like that...

 My Dad used to find tomahawks and things like that the Indians used when he plowed the ground. And we heard from different people that if any children died out here in the older days they were buried right on the field where they were, wherever they lived. So my Dad would come up with bones, he'd find them, too.

 It was really touching at times to come across that.

He didn't have much education, but he could figure things out...

 My father didn't have much education, but he could figure things out. My mother was a schoolteacher in Round Lake, and that's where he met her.

 My mother taught school for several years before she was married, but after she was married she raised a family and worked on the farm. Her home was up here at what they call Windy City, up the Biernacki Road, she was a Biernacki.

 When she was going to school, she'd always say, "Oh, I'll never go on that island. That's water, and I'm scared of it!" She never thought that she would live here on the island! Oh, she was very scared when my Dad closed the deal on the island.

 My father owned a sash and door factory in Killaloe. He owned it before he was married and he lived there until 1917. But he was a farm boy, and a country boy.

 So the doctor told him, "You better get out in the open air, instead of being inside, doing building." So he came here.

 He paid quite a bit at that time, too. A party came up to me and said, "O boy, my uncle could have bought this island for five hundred dollars!"

 I said, "Too bad he didn't buy it!" I said, "Our Dad didn't buy it for no five hundred dollars!"

 My father was a quite an investor. When he saw a chance he invested into property. The island was an investment. He'd say, "Go ahead, maybe that!" And he was always successful in coming through it. I don't think he ever lost anything that he invested.

 There was hard times, but he always tried to keep it up. Maybe there wasn't all the money, but we always had enough to eat and enough to wear.

Our family lived here all alone.

 Our family lived here all alone. Our mother used to tell us, "Our neighbour is the water." It was very scary!

We lost a lot of school in our young days, in between getting settled and the ice and the water and the freeze up.

We went to school in a rowboat for several years, until my Dad built the first floating bridge. I guess it was built about '28 or '29. All through the thirties and the forties it was the floating bridge, up until 1952. Then the municipality of Sherwood, Jones and Burns took over and built a causeway. My father donated around a thousand dollars for fill.

The bridge floated on logs. There were raised piers at each end. It was quite an experience. If anybody did drive, they had to drive with caution because it was nothing but logs on each side. No rails, nothing.

The big windstorms would rip it apart...

Sometimes the floating bridge broke out and went out on the lake. The big windstorms would come and rip it apart, and then we had to go in a rowboat to church.

I can recall when my aunt's brother, Father Coulas, was being ordained in our church. His family brought him out from Paugh Lake, and they asked if he could stay over at my mother's and dad's. So they tried to get him over the floating bridge in a little narrow car. They went just part way and the wheels got stuck in logs in the middle of the bridge. They had more fun over that. Oh by golly.

Everything that came to the Island had to come on that floating bridge. Unless it was something big. If it was something big we'd wait till winter when you could drive over the ice.

Our Dad had another ranch across the lake for his cattle.

He would pasture them there in the summer months.

They were taken there over the floating bridge, and many times some of the cattle fell in.

It was quite an experience! All the family had to help.

This whole island used to all be one big farm....

 This whole island used to all be one big farm. And everything was done mostly by horses and by hand. Our Dad had a first tractor in the thirties.

 We always helped at thrashing time. We had to work together on the farm. The three oldest children were born within three years, so you can imagine how close we were.

When my mother took sick, we had to plow in and do the cooking and bake the bread, and milk the cows. We would garden, and go picking berries in the summer.

No such a thing as going uptown to get the bread.

We used to raise a lot of potatoes. One time my Dad had over 400 bags of potatoes. And he'd have a bee. A bunch of ladies would come over and Dad would have kind of a digger, and they'd go behind the digger picking them up and bagging them. It was something. Everyone worked very hard, but we enjoyed it.

We were always told that the island was good farm land. And my Dad was a real hard-working farmer.

When we were small, we'd say, "Oh Dad, why are you working so hard?"

And held say, "We have to work, and not sell the farm."

Held say, "I just love it. I want to go to the grave here."

 Mother and Dad raised a large family. Six girls and three boys, namely, Evelyn, Florence, Teresa, Raymond, Leona, Clementine, Elmer, Sylvia and Donald.

Everyone was born at home.

 There were no hospitals then, sometimes no doctor.

 Dad was working with his hands when he passed away. It was in November, it was Friday the thirteenth, 1964. Hunting season. He was just about eighty years old.

He said to Mother "I'm going to check the fence and see to the cattle, and tomorrow I'm going hunting." He had his license in his pocket.

But after a while my mother said, "Go and see how Grandpa is." And so one of the kiddies come flying through, and he said, "Oh Grandpa's lying on the ground, between the stable and the house."

He had a screwdriver and a hammer in his hand and he was dead. It was a very great shock to my mother and all our sisters and brothers.

He worked hard, my dad...

He worked hard, my dad. He was in municipal affairs for twenty-seven years. He liked to serve as a Reeve. Today they get paid for all their meetings and everything. In those days they got 10 or 20 dollars a year.

 He was a clever man. He'd stand on his feet, but he was not a man that would run anybody down.

 If he saw somebody was wrong he'd tell them, he'd just say, "Lookit," he'd say, "I can't take that! Nobody is perfect."'

He was nominated twice to be the County Warden and he declined, because he figured he didn't have the education.

I have his obituary from the Eganville Leader: "Mr. Mask was a Reeve for 18 years in Barry's Bay and Sherwood, Jones and Burns. He was on the council 27 years in all, maybe more, and he was nominated for the County Warden twice, and he declined each time."

He was so good to people as Reeve!

 And he was so good to the people as a Reeve!

 If he saw people hungry he'd get my mother and they would walk miles to take some food out there from the Municipality. In the fall if people were sick or didn't have work, my parents took them a bag of flour and a bag of sugar and salt and tea and coffee - the main things. And some meat unless they had their own pigs or cows. They would make sure that the people had to last the winter through.

It was called Relief in those days, and it was the only help.

My mother was always right beside my father to help out.

A lot of farmers went to the bush in the fall, and they didn't come out until spring. I can recall one winter my father wanted to work in the bush at the Bonnechere and my mother said, "I'll go with you to cook and let the bigger children here look after the farm for a few months."

And we managed good!

My Dad spent many winters in his bush lot to cut logs, and also wood for our wood stoves. We had no electricity, only coal oil lamps.

The church and our home was first...

 We worked very hard with the church.  We were always taught the church and our home was first.

 We went to church every Sunday. We had to go. We belonged to the choir and we worked for the church organization. We would sell tickets and work at the picnics.

 When we were small, we were taught that.

 The Sisters taught us violin and piano music in school. It was classical - they'd never allow us to play old time fiddle music.

 Well, I used to play the violin in an orchestra, and we used to go to Knights of Columbus doings. We used to go and play while they had their meetings, then have some entertainment.

 When it was time to go home, Msgr. Biernacki would say, "You can't go home, it's too dark to cross the bridge with no lights," so I'd have to stay at the rectory. He would let my mother know not to worry before I left.

We'd look forward to a chance to stay at the rectory.

We liked it very much. He was so kind to us.

Msgr. Biernacki was a founder of a lot of things

Msgr Biernacki was a founder of a lot of things in our parish. But he was also our uncle, my mother's brother. He used to come over to the farm and say "I want some chickens, I'm going to have a dinner for the altar boys, or the church workers."

 Msgr. Biernacki died penniless. If he had a few dollars, he gave it away. He got sick in June and he passed away the last day of the year, and the hospital was built the next year. He was the founder of our hospital. He had the charter, the land and all the plans for it, but he didn't live to see it built.

 He was parish priest from 1910 to 1959. They didn't take him away as parish priest from the church until after his death. He was quite a guy, but he went at an early age, he was just about seventy. He was fun, but he was stern. He meant business when he wanted to do something. He was the founder of St. Hedwig's Church in 1914. He saw that a convent was built, and brought the Sisters here in 1928. He saw that St. Joseph's School was built on the church property the same year.

 In 1947 he made a drive for the hospital. Before the hospital was built we had $38,000.00, all raised by volunteers. Yes, he was very instrumental in a lot of things held in Barry's Bay.

He'd never ask anybody for anything. If a woman was a widow, he would say "I don't want anything. If you can't give to the collection in church, you don't have to."

He never begged people for money, but they always used to come forward and say, "We are going to give."

He was made a Monsignor in 1946. The church burned the mortgage before he passed away.

Last year was the 75th anniversary of St. Hedwig's. The Sacred Heart League bought a plaque in memory of Msgr. Biernacki and in memory of the late Msgr. Maika who took over as parish priest after my uncle.

And if you ever go in the hospital, you see a huge picture, that says that he was the founder of the hospital. Even on his big tombstone it says the founder of the hospital and the church and the schools, and everything. He was really great. The younger people wouldn't remember, but the older ones - he really touched them very much.

After Msgr. Maika passed away we got another local priest, Msgr. Ambrose Pick. He has been our parish priest since 1975. We have many priests ordained from our parish, and we are proud of them.

The daily:

My Dad started the Island Dairy in 1938. I was away up north and they called me home. Dad says "You get home, because I'm starting."

This is his announcement from February 1938:

"I wish to announce to the people of Barry's Bay and vicinity the opening of my new pasteurized plant, fully equipped with the latest mechanism to ensure a perfect product. I solicit your patronage and promise in return, a dairy service which will meet with your satisfaction."

He bought the land from Jack Conway and he started the building. It was right where the Dairy is today. He bought all new machinery from DeLaval. We didn't have a restaurant, but we sold milk off the counter, and cream, and ice cream.

 Dad started in 1938. We had a wood-fired furnace and a boiler. I recall we had a hole dug for a well and we went home, and put a lantern in by the hole to keep it warm, so that nothing would freeze. When we got back next morning the lantern had smoked and the Dairy was all black. We had just painted the walls and we had to get up there and scrub and paint it again. Oh my sister and I were crying! But anyway we all worked as a family to get things back to order.

The milk was all from our father's dairy herd. Our own milk. He used to run twenty-rive or thirty Holstein cows. He had a registered Holstein herd for our dairy. And then he had a few Jerseys that give richer milk.

The government came in and said we couldn't sell any raw milk, it would all have to be pasteurized, so he tackled it. We had to get the milk and pasteurize it and bottle it and deliver it from house to house.

We had a boiler that had to be fired to pasteurize the milk and sterilize the bottles. We had to have steam for that. Our next door neighbour looked after the fire, at nights. Then when we came in we'd have to sterilize all the bottles and bottle the milk. We really went through something.

Barney, Get Goin!

 For deliveries we had horse called Barney. One time my brother was delivering milk when it got dark. There were no lights like there are today. He came to St. Joseph's convent, and he said, "Barney, get going!"

First thing you knew, he and the cart and the horse were in a big hole. They had opened a cesspool, they were going to dig it out to clean it. What a mess. He said he'd never forget that.

He thought it was funny but I didn't think it was so funny.

We had some quite a lot of experiences.

 In the winter the milk went to town over the ice, but in the summer the milk would have to go over that floating bridge. One day my brother was loading on the cans of milk, to go from the farm to the dairy, to pasteurize. He told my sister to get in for a minute, and then he closed the door and he galloped right over the floating bridge.

She screamed for help, she said, "We'll be drowned!" He got her to Main Street and let her out right there. She was so embarrassed, because there were people on the street. She had on an old pair of rubber boots, and the whole thing.

We never charged for the glass bottles, when we delivered the milk. But lately I found one of our bottles at a flea market in Toronto. I was very happy to have one with our Dairy name on it. But it took me quite a bit of money to pick it up!

My brother stayed on the farm...

My brother stayed on the farm. Some of the rest of the brothers and sisters went out away to work, but I stayed, too, and helped my mother. Somebody had to stay.

I was almost thirty years old when I went off this farm but I worked here until then. And I still worked after, and I'm still yet helping out if I can.

I held on to my land.

My Dad would say "Please, don't ever sell it before I close my eyes."

I says, "Well, OK. I'll pay the taxes, and use it, and it'll be good."

I have my own garden and everything. I like to have my roots. I want to hold this place. Here my children have a home.

I want them to carry on like I did. And like my Dad always said.

We were always taught this way: Home and Church. Before you get out further. It's nice to belong to so many organizations. But I like to see that the home and the church is done first.