Restoration planned of old Fort Ste. Marie, Ontario to co-operate
Midland, Oct. 24 (Staff).—Premier George Drew tonight pledged the assistance in the task of restoring Fort Ste. Marie, scene of the Jesuit Fathers martyrdom 300 years ago, and in developing the program for rebuilding historic sites of ancient Huronia.
The Premier made this statement here tonight in an address before the Huronia Historic Sites Association. Coupled with this pledge of Government assistance, was the statement from Sir Ellsworth Flavelle, honorary president of the association, that plans have been completed for the staging of a gigantic pageant in and around the site of Fort St. Marie, in 1947. The pageant, described by Sir Ellsworth as "one that will rival, if not out rival," any pageant in the world will be based on "Breboeuf and his Brethren,&qout; the famous poem written by D. E.J. Pratt, professor of English at Victoria College.
The occasion of these announcements was the laying of a stone from the ruins of ancient Fort Ste. Marie in the wall of the new C.N.R. station now under construction here. The new edifice, embodying new principles of design for railway station buildings, thus becomes a symbol of the past and a forerunner of the future.
Will plan restoration
Sir Ellsworth, who is also president of the Pageant Committee, said that he had been advised yesterday by Robert Fennell, K.C., chairman of the Board of Governors, Royal Ontario Museum, that the board was willing to discuss with the Jesuit Fathers plans which involve restoration of Fort Ste. Marie, provided the Minister of Education approved.
"We have also received assurance that the Jesuit Fathers will be happy to discuss this development with the Board of Governors of the Royal Ontario Museum," said Sir Ellsworth. "Naturally, and closely, coupled with this development, would be the official sponsorship by the Royal Ontario Museum of the Breboeuf Pageant."
There was a possibility that the pageant, because of the magnitude of the plans involved, might have to be deferred until 1948, the speaker continued. In this event it would coincide with the Tercentenary of Father Daniel's martyrdom, July 4, 1648, which marked the beginning of the downfall of Huronia.
At the conclusion of his remarks, Col. Drew said: "I can assure you that we will do everything we can to further this development. We all share its history."
The Premier emphasized the great cultural and historical value in the story of the Jesuit Fathers Fort St. Marie three centures ago represented the centre of the beginning of Christianity in Ontario.
"If I have any message to give tonight it is this: Bring back into the teaching of history a breath of life, whether it be the story of the Jesuit Fathers or the effects of other great men in our nation," the Premier said. "We must make the memory of these men and their achievements a living thing."
Foundation is character
Neither science nor wealth ever measured the success of any nation, Mr. Drew said. All the efforst that brough victory in the war were nothing in themselves. Behind these efforts was the character of people who believe that freedom could be preserved if there was faith in ideals.
"There is only one defense against the atomic bomb and the other achievements of science," said the Premier. "And that is the spread of decency and character that will render such discoveries safe for mankind. We won't preserve peace merely by asserting our belief in Canada, in the British Empire, in the fellowship of nations. We will preserve it to the extent that we teach our youth the lessons we have learned."
Sir Ellsworth Flavelle, disclosing some of the preparations for the Breboeuf Pageant, said that Dr. Healey William, professor of music at University of Toronto, and distinguished compower, had been granted a sabbatical year by the university to permit him to prepare the musical background for the pageant. The proposed choir of 250 would be drawn from Huronia district as much as possible. There would also be a 100 piece symphony orchestra.
Pratt read from poem
Dr. E.J. Pratt, eminent poet, whose "Breboeuf and His Brethren" will form the basis of the pageant, read excerpts from his poem, telling of the martyrdom of Breboeuf at the hands of the Iroquois.
Frank McDowell, author of "The Champlain Road," said that had Fort Ste. Marie fulfilled the dreams of Champlain, the whole course of North American history might have been different. Instead of two democracies there might have been four or five, each with its own frontiers bristling with armaments. He disclosed that at a recent meeting of leaders in the movement to revive Huronia, it had been suggested that he write a history of Huronia.
Provincial Treasurer Leslie Frost urged that in the rebuilding of Fort Ste. Marie the original foundation sbe left intact, and that the new structure be built around the historic stones.
Father T.J. Lally, who has taken a leading role in the plans of the association, also spoke. V.G. Edwards, president of the association presided.
Station ready in 1946
It is hoped to open formally the new station early in 1946. The stone building will incorporate architectural features new to railway station design and its is expected to pioneer a new era in this regard. Visitors who come to Midland by rail—an ambitious plans have been made to increase the volume—will see a graceful building symbolic of modern life, and yet containing within its walls a stone from one of the oldest historic ruins on the continent. Fort Ste. Marie was built in 1639 and destroyed in 1649 by the rampaging Iroquois when they obliterated Huronia in one of their tribal wars.
Fort Ste. Marie never was rebuilt. Its ruins stood for almost 300 years as a monument to the Jesuit Fathers who labored to bring their teaching to the savage redmen, and who died in this fort. If plans of the Huronia Historic Sites Association are realized, Fort Ste. Marie will be rebuilt with absolute fidelity for tradition and historical fact, and all other links with the past will be brought to life to form a wide and vital background for the national beauty of this Georgian Bay area.
Among those attending today's cornerstone laying ceremony was Dr. E.J. Pratt, who wrote "Breboeuf and His Brethren," the story in verse of ancient Huronia.
Premier Drew, in a brief address, said it was very fitting that there should be continuing evidence of the close association with Midland of the historic events commemorated by Fort Ste. Marie. History, he said, was not a dull dead thing, but a living story.
J.A. Rogers, assistant general manager, Central Region, C.N.R., said the stone was incorporated in the new station building to "keep fresh in men's minds one of the greatest epics in our Canadian history." He said he looked forward to the day when the realization of the association's plans would make Huronia one of the greatest tourist attractions on the continent.
Departure in stations
"This is the third station built in Midland since that historic day in 1879 when the first train reached the shores of Georgian Bay," Mr. Rogers said. "It's design is a departure from the usual conception of a railway station. It combines utility with a pleasing appearance and in our opinion is in keeping with the importance of Midland as one of the heaviest shipping points on the Great Lakes."
Mayor William Robinson, M.P.; Provincial Treasurer Leslie Frost, and V.G. Edwards, president of the Historical Society, also spoke briefly.
Several hundred school children attended the ceremony. They heartily applauded all the speakers, but they redoubled their handclapping when Premier Drew, in his capacity of Minister of Education, said he had asked the local school authorities to grant them a half-holiday Friday.
[Photograph not Reproduced.]
Historic cornerstone for Midland's new C.N.R. station was laid yesterday by Sir Ellsworth Flavelle in the presence of Premier Drew (left) and other Government and railway officials. The stone was taken from the 300-year-old ruins of Fort Ste. Marie, Jesuit mission near Midland.