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After Which Flood

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Local History

  • Sepia coloured picture of men with shovels

Cathy, Queen's Square | February 14, 2014

When I moved to Cambridge eighteen years ago it felt a bit like coming home.  My father had lived in Galt when he was a young boy and had shared many stories about his life “way back when.”  Unfortunately for me though, the details in those memories were a bit hazy after the seventy plus intervening years and even the exact dates he lived here were unknown. 

But he did have a few old photographs passed down from his parents and the one that always intrigued me was the accompanying photograph taken after a flood on the Grand River.  This sepia coloured picture of men with shovels, shifting huge blocks of ice, stayed with me.  I had tried half-heartedly over the years to determine the date of that photograph but unfortunately, during the early part of the 20th century the Grand River flooded almost every year.

Recently the Cambridge Archives launched The Cambridge Archives Research Portal and for fun, I searched the word “flood”.  Wow – the results were amazing.  And even more amazing was that I found photographs very similar to the one I have.  Just like that, I was able to date the photograph to February 1930.   And now that I have that date I can use the old Vernon’s City Directories here at the library to try and pinpoint where my grandparents were living.  And who knows, maybe I’ll even be able to match the front porch in another old picture to the actual house they lived in. 

And as a postscript to this story, just last week someone came to the library wanting confirmation of his own memory from the early 1960s.  He thought he remembered something about an organized starling shoot in downtown Galt.  Could we help him?  Sure enough – a quick search of The Cambridge Archives Research Portal and we had the confirmation.   From there, a trip to the Archives to read the referenced documents and he had all the information he wanted.

The Cambridge Archives team have just started this digitization project so watch for many new and exciting entries over the months to come.