Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kenora, Ontario....Looking for Great-Uncle Nelson

We headed off to Kenora which is northwest of Thunder Bay. The drive was not so pretty scenery wise...trees, rocks, road construction, trees, rocks. We were glad to arrive!

Here is the old train station built in 1899 and still in use today.

Kenora has a very pretty location on Lake of the Woods, and Jim remembered it being a very wealthy town at one time.

There was one restaurant from the eating bible and we made our way downtown. The whole downtown is under construction as they are replacing water and sewer lines that are over 100 years old, so the downtown businesses have been hurting most of the summer. The restaurant is Greek and family owned, and the new generation of owners have been making efforts to cook in a more healthy way, so that was nice. We had to split a dessert 'cause I have never heard of ekmek. It is a traditional Greek dessert which was served mostly to the upper class and the recipe has been handed down from their grandmother. Cookie soaked in honey and cointreau and topped with custard and whipped cream. Oh yeah....

The next day we set out to find Jim's great-uncle Nelson (his grandfather's brother). He remembered visiting him in Kenora as a young boy in 1950 on a family vacation. He thought Uncle Nel was old at that time, but as a youngster, everyone is old! He knew he had been a Lieutenant Colonel in WWI and knew approximately where he lived, but that was about it. We had our work cut out for us!

We decided to head to the Legion first thinking they might have a picture of him or maybe his name would be on a placque. At the legion, there was a large line-up of elderly people. Good grief, we had hit flu shot day! The lady at the legion couldn't find anything on Uncle Nel, but she asked one of the older gents who knew somebody else who happened to be there getting his flu shot. We went over to speak to him and a man behind him in the line said "Colonel Schnarr? He was on my paper route when I was a boy. He used to give me a two-bit tip every week, and that was a lot of money in those days!" He told us the area where he had lived so we decided to go there. On the way out, the lady working in the office suggested we try the cemetery as well so we had another lead.

We drove to the area where Jim thought he had lived, but everything of course was so different and there was no use trying to pinpoint a house. We headed off to the cemetery.

Can you spot the deer in the picture?

The cemetery has an office on site and Carol was there to help us. She found so much information for us, it was incredible. She really went out of her way to help, looking up censuses and going on an ancestry website for us.

We found out that Great-Uncle Nelson was born in Tavistock, Ontario in 1868. His wife, Eva, passed away at the young age of 24 in 1897 (of what we weren't sure). Carol mentioned an infant who also passed away in 1897, but at the age of 5 months so it wasn't in childbirth, but that was the first we had heard of a child.

She suggested that we try the library as they have microfilm and that we should be able to find their obituaries. So armed with a pile of paper and much more information than when we arrived, we found the headstone in the cemetery.

From there, on to the library where the librarian was able to find Uncle Nel's obituary in the paper on microfilm. He was a very prominent figure in the area; a dental surgeon who belonged to many organizations and gave much of his time to the community. In the upper right hand corner is his obituary, which we were able to get a copy of.

The editor of the newspaper had also written an editorial on him which expressed how much he had given to the community and how much he would be missed. He died at the age of 84 in 1952, so no wonder Jim thought he was old when he visited in 1950!

The librarian showed us a map of the area and pointed out Schnarr Lake, north of Kenora, which was named after him. We were very happy with all the information we had, and she suggested we visit the museum in town. Being as he was a prominent citizen, she thought maybe they would have some pictures or information on him.

So with more papers in hand, we set off for the museum. The girl there was very busy with school groups and other duties, but she was more than obliging and pleased to show us several pictures, these being two of the best.

Wasn't he a handsome man!

Everyone in Kenora was just so helpful and friendly. We certainly ended up with far more information than we ever thought we would!

From there it was time to head off to Winnipeg, hopefully to find some of Jim's cousins.

I was amazed that almost as soon as you enter Manitoba, it is flat, flat, flat. Talk about the prairies! Don't know what was going on in the sky. It was like dust devils...

We took a quick side trip to Steinbach, where selling cars is the main industry.

And then on to Winnipeg...

Garmie brought us right to the door of the hotel, where we are staying for three nights while we go relative hunting. If today's success is any indication, it should be great!


Stephanie and Randy Build First Canoe said...

The stuff about Nelson Schnarr was fascinating. I think I look like him, and I know the pictures of my Dad when he was younger look quite a bit like him. Thanks for sharing.

Paul D said...

Hi guys,

Very interesting post! I stumbled across it because I have a cabin on Schnarr Lake and always wondered what the origin of the etymology was. Now I know! Nelson seemed like one heck of a guy! I'm honored to be on the lake named after him.

By the way, the lake is beautiful and I love it to death. I'm closer to my cabin than I am my own home. If you ever want to see pictures of Schnarr Lake, it'd be my pleasure.

Jim-and-Kim said...

Hi Paul
We got to know Uncle Nel [actually he was my fathers uncle] from a visit to Kenora in 1950 and from the many stories that my father told about him. My dad stayed with him in the '20s while he worked as a timber cruiser around the lake.

We were really happy with the reception we got in Kenora and were very thankful to the many people who provided us with information about his life.

We would appreciate any photos that you could send us. I will forward them to our cousin Bill who is doing alot of work on the family history.

Our email address is

Thank you
Jim and Kim