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By the late 1890s, prominent Ottawa lumberman Frederick Wells Avery had become a member of the Ottawa Golf Club (the area’s first golf club, which was founded in 1891), and he had also recently discovered the pleasures of summer resort life in Aylmer, which was beginning to boom as a resort patronized by well-to-do Ottawa residents who wished to escape the city’s frequently hot, humid weather from June to August.

Figure 1 Frederick Wells Avery (1851-1916). New York Lumber Trade Journal, vol 60 (15 May 1916), p. 36.

Avery certainly loved golf: in April of 1898, for instance, he was one of the first members of the Ottawa Golf Club to play the club’s thirteen-hole Chelsea Links located on the Chelsea Road north of Hull. The electric railway line carrying him from Ottawa terminated at Wrightville, about half a mile short of the clubhouse. To indulge his passion for early spring golf, Avery had to walk half a mile along the muddy Chelsea Road from the Wrightville station, carrying his golf clubs and a small travel bag with his red golf jacket, sports trousers, and golf boots in it.


Travelling to the Chelsea Links from downtown Ottawa was one thing. Getting there from Avery’s summer residence in Aylmer was another: it was much longer and more time-consuming. As a reporter for the Montreal Herald observed, “The golf players who make Aylmer their homes during the summer months find the links near Ottawa on the Chelsea Road too far” (13 June 1899, p. 4).

As Avery ruminated on the matter at the end of the 1898 golf season, the solution became obvious: build a golf course in Aylmer and found a new golf club.


Avery did both and so became the president of the Ottawa area’s second golf club.

The New Golf Club

Although the new golf club would be based in Aylmer, it was actually formed in Ottawa. And like Ottawa’ first golf club, the second was officially organized at a meeting held in the spacious convention rooms of the Russell House, one of Ottawa’s premier downtown hotels in the late nineteenth century:




New Club Organized


A meeting was held yesterday afternoon at the Russell House, at which the Victoria Golf Club, Aylmer, was formed. (Ottawa Citizen, 28 February 1899, p. 6)

Figure 2 Russell House, Ottawa, circa 1898.

Figure 3 Toboggan slide, Hotel Victoria, Aylmer, circa 1898

The 1891 meetings at Russell Houses to organize the Ottawa Golf Club had occurred over several weeks in April, but the golfers of Aylmer were so eager to get things underway as soon as the snow melted in the spring of 1899 that they met on February 27th .


At this point in February, the area where the first tee of the new club’s golf course would be located (seen in the photograph to the left) was still home to the popular electric toboggan slide of Aylmer’s Hotel Victoria, which had opened the year before.


Given the enthusiasm for Aylmer golf revealed by this winter meeting of the Victoria Golf Club, one is not surprised to read in the Ottawa Citizen that “Play will begin early” (28 February 1899, p. 6).

At this founding meeting, the club announced that it had already signed up 35 members (Ottawa Citizen, 28 February 1899, p. 6). Considering, on the one hand, the fact that after several weeks of organizational effort in the spring of 1891, the Ottawa Golf Club had signed up 50 men as members, and, on the other hand, that the Ottawa Golf Club had 75 “active” members in 1899, one can understand the optimism that attended the founding of Ottawa’s second golf club: it was already half way to the membership total of the older golf club (Ottawa Free Press, 21 April 1891; Ottawa Journal, 5 April 1899, p. 6). At the end of April, furthermore, it was reported that “the membership of the club is increasing and the out-look for a prosperous season was never brighter” (Ottawa Citizen, 27 April 1899, p. 6).


And the new club would have been confident that even more people would become members as the Hotel Victoria welcomed summer-long residents from other parts of Canada and the northeastern United States as of mid-June. As Toronto’s Saturday Night magazine observed, this was “a club formed among the boarders at the hotel in connection with the hotel links” (17 June 1899, p. 10). Although the writer in the Ottawa Journal got the name of the new club wrong, he captured its gung-ho mood accurately: “the Aylmer [sic] Golf Club, which has just come into existence this year, … bids fair to be a very flourishing institution” (29 May 1899, p. 8)

The Hotel Victoria

By the time the Victoria Golf Club was formed, the Hotel Victoria had been open for two years. Famous for “its commodious club rooms,” it would become the headquarters of the Victoria Golf Club when it opened for its summer season in June of 1899: “A fine club room has been offered to the club by Mr. St. Jacques, of the Russell, the proprietor of the Victoria Hotel, the most luxurious summer hotel in Canada” (Montreal Star, 13 June 1899, p. 4; Herald [Montreal], 1 April 1899, p. 14). A number of the hotel’s original owners were members of the Victoria Golf Club. Among these were Charles Magee, founding member of the Ottawa Golf Club in 1891 (and donor of land in Sandy Hill both for its golf course and for its clubhouse), Robert Hughes Conroy (prominent barrister, multiple-term mayor of South Hull, lumber merchant, and owner of farms in the Aylmer area), and François Xavier St. Jacques, well-known proprietor of Russell House.

Figure 4 Ottawa Daily Citizen, 15 June 1897, p. 8

Along with several others, these men incorporated in the spring of 1897 as “The Victoria Hotel Company” and immediately built the Hotel Victoria, which formally opened less than three months later at the beginning of the summer season of 1897.


The new hotel immediately became popular locally, attracting to its regular dinners and dances elite members of anglophone and francophone society in the capital region.


Many wealthy Ottawa families took up residence in the hotel for long periods during each summer, and so did well-to-do families from across Canada and the northeastern United States. The following is the entry about the hotel in Frederick Smily’s 1904 publication, Canada’s Summer Resort Guide:

The Hull Electric Railway conveys passengers from Ottawa through Aylmer, and surrounding charming scenery, to the Hotel Victoria, nine miles, or one-half hour’s journey from Ottawa, connection being made with the Ottawa Electric Railway at Hull. Aylmer is also reached by the Waltham branch of the C.P.R. from Ottawa….


The building itself is of handsome architectural design, and of ornate interior construction. It contains elegantly furnished bedrooms, single and en suite, most modern sanitary arrangements, steam heating, electric lights throughout, electric bells, passenger elevators, etc. Ample provision has been made for indoor amusements, in the fine bowling alley, billiard room and spacious ballrooms, where dancing is enjoyed to the accompaniment of a good orchestra. Bicycling, bathing, rowing, sailing, tennis, water tobogganing, fishing, etc., are among the outdoor amusements.


The Hotel Victoria is situated in the centre of a fine park of thirty acres on the shore of Lake Deschenes, a widening of the Ottawa River, twenty-eight miles by one to four in extent. Mr. F.X. St. Jacques, late of the Russell House, is proprietor of this fine hostelry. (p. 84)


Word of the hotel’s charms soon also spread through the United States via positive newspaper reports.


The Boston Globe published a large photograph of the hotel, noting that that it “is delightfully situated on the side of a hill overlooking the river” (20 August 1906, p. 4). The Washington Post liked the view from the top of this hotel that was built on top of a hill: “Providence never set a more beautiful scene than that visible from the 120-foot observatory of the Hotel Victoria …. Mountains greet the vision to the north. Within a stone’s throw is the lake” (Washington Post, 19 June 1910, p. 5).


One American visitor travelling with the association of newspaper editors of Pennsylvania was struck by the appearance of French-Canadian guests at the regular dances held in the pavilion of the Hotel Victoria: “It was an unusual sight for Americans, or ‘Yankees,’ as they call people from the states. Fully three-fourths of the participants were French Canadians. The French costumes were an unusual sight among the ladies, while every French gentleman who had a moustache had at each end the full French curl” (Gazette [Bedford, Pennsylvania], 6 August 1909, p. 2).


The hotel was located on the north-western edge of Aylmer, as seen on the 1906 topographical map of Aylmer, the Hotel Victoria being marked as “H,” highlighted by a yellow dot (a location today found near the intersection of Rue Raoul-Roy and Rue Douglas).

Figure 5 1906 topographical map. Detail enlarged and annotated. Victoria Hotel marked by “H” highlighted in yellow.

It could be seen from long distances across the Ottawa River, and from up and down Lake Deschênes.

Figure 6 Hotel Victoria, circa 1897.

Today, the grounds of the Hotel Victoria have become the “Parc des cedres,” seen in the photo below.

Figure 7 Contemporary Google satellite image of the old grounds of the Hotel Victoria. The hotel itself was located near the baseball diamond shown in the photograph above.

The public park has a baseball diamond (which marks the location of the old hotel building), an elaborate children’s play structure, and, of course, a swimming beach, which is very popular.


As of 1899, there was wharf extending well out from the hotel into Lake Deschenes, where steamers that plied the lake called regularly to pick up or drop off guests and tourists. But most of the hotel’s guests arrived via either the Aylmer Toll Road (some cycling the ten miles out from the centre of Ottawa), the Canadian Pacific Railway line, or the Hull Electric Railway line.

Hull Electric Railway

The most popular and convenient way get to the Hotel Victoria was via the Hull Electric Railway, which opened in June of 1896 after it received delivery of the first electric locomotive built in Canada. As can be seen in the photograph below, there was a stop on the hotel’s front lawn, where the tracks ran along the shore of the Ottawa River.

Figure 8 Hotel Victoria, circa 1897. Note the Hull Electric Railway tracks and the poles holding electric wires at the station platform in front of the hotel.

Aylmer can be seen on the right side of the photograph above, in the middle ground beyond the tracks stretching away to the south-east.


In May of 1897, the tracks were extended 1.5 miles (3 km) north-west of Aylmer to a new park along the Quebec shore of the Ottawa River. This park had been developed by the Hull Electric Railway Company in anticipation of the extension of its line up to “One Tree Point”:


Summer visitors are in the habit of calling the site of the new electric park at Aylmer One Tree Point. The name was given, no doubt, in allusion to a large and solitary elm which stands out on the point, in bold relief, and is a landmark for many miles up and down the lake.


The proper name, however, is Pointe aux Pins, by which designation it has been known from time immemorial, both to the old voyageurs of the Ottawa and the fur traders before them. (Ottawa Journal, 6 March 1897, p. 8)

Figure 9 One Tree Point circa 1897, around the time of the arrival of the Hull Electric Railway line.

On the occasion of Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897, the new park was named Victoria Park, although it was also known virtually from the beginning as Queen’s Park.

Victoria Park / Queen's Park

The easiest access to the park owned by the Hull Electric Railway Company was provided, of course, by the company’s electric railway. Service was regular, and the fare was inexpensive. The Hull Electric Railway and the Ottawa Electric Railway shared a station in Hull where passengers could change from one company’s lines to the other’s, making the trip from Ottawa easy and efficient.


We see in the photograph below an electric railway car parked at the Victoria Park station.

Figure 10 Victoria Park, Aylmer, Quebec, early 1900s.

Closed in the winter, the park generally opened in May, leased from the Hull Electric Railway Company by a succession of proprietors who arranged for a season of activities, which included theatrical entertainments, silent picture shows, lectures in the auditorium, orchestra performances in the pavilion, dances, and so on.


Each year, mind you, before the park was officially opened and before the Hull Electric Railway had begun to run its cars out to Victoria Park, people walked out to the area from Aylmer if the weather was fine and they were in a mood for a stretch of the legs. The park included a boardwalk and a baseball field that could be used in or out of season.

The other way to get to Victoria Park was via a steamer plying the waters of Lake Deschênes, such as the G.B. Greene, seen in the photograph below when it was docked at the Victoria Park wharf.

Figure 11 The steamer G.B. Greene docked at the Victoria Park wharf, circa 1900. Could the two men in "plus-fours" and flat caps have been golfers?

Victoria Park’s seventy-five acres of land continued to be developed by the Hull Electric Railway Company throughout the last years of the nineteenth century.

Figure 12 Water chute or water toboggan slide on the shore of Lake Deschênes at Victoria Park, Aylmer, Quebec, circa 1898.

In the spring of 1898, what would prove to be Victoria Park’s most exciting attraction was built at the water’s edge just north-west of the wharf: the water chute or water toboggan slide, seen in the photograph to the left.

Toboggan “boats” full of passengers were towed up a track by electric motors. At the top of the 75-foot scaffolding, they were released down a steep track, falling into a walled-in basin at the lakeshore.

Figure 13 Early 1900s postcard showing the water chute or water toboggan slide at Victoria Park, Aylmer, Quebec.

The descent was said to be “nearly as rapid as the present toboggan slide” at the Hotel Victoria in the winter (Ottawa Journal, 26 February 1898, p. 6).

Figure 14 Toboggan boat splashing into the water at Victoria Park, Aylmer, circa 1898.

The thumping splash of the boats seem to have been almost as exciting for spectators as it was for passengers: there was always a crowd watching the ride in action. For years, advertisements invited readers to come to Victoria Park to “Shoot the Chute!” (Ottawa Journal, 25 May 1899, p. 8).


And over many years, many thousands did.

In the photograph below, a view from the top of the water cute shows (from left to right) some of the other buildings at the park: the merry-go-round, the theatre, the pavilion, and the “Mystic Moorish Maze” (with its 124 trick doors).

Figure 15 Late 1800s postcard view of Victoria Park / Queen's Park, Aylmer, Quebec.

There were other facilities at the park as well, such as a beach for swimming, a boardwalk, a rollerskating rink, moving pictures, rowboats, and a baseball field.

Figure 16 Jessie H. Raycroft, "Les Chat Rapids," 1888.

And, of course, steamers such as the “G.B. Greene” regularly called at the Victoria Park wharf not just to drop off visitors, but also to take tourists on sight-seeing trips around Lake Deschênes. The steamers crossed the Ottawa River to the 1,000-foot-long wharf at Britanniaby-the-Bay, a park on the Ontario side with similar facilities, and they also travelled upriver as far as Chats Rapids near Fitzroy Harbour (below Arnprior).

In The Hub and the Spokes, or, The Capital and Its Environs (Ottawa, 1904), Anson A. Gard described the voyage on the G.B. Greene from Queen’s Park to Chats Rapids as “one of the trips the wise tourist takes when visiting Ottawa. ‘Half a day for half a dollar’” (p. 330).


Alas, the park declined after World War I, closing in the 1920s. Its buildings were demolished, and its property was used for cottage development.

The Cedar's Summer Colony

In the late 1890s, then, the Hull Electric Railway Company opened up the area along the north-west shore of the Ottawa River beyond Aylmer for development of all sorts. The construction of the Hotel Victoria and Victoria Park, for instance, fostered the development of sporting clubs such as the Victoria Yacht Club and, of course, the Victoria Golf Club. Development was also stimulated in Aylmer itself: “New houses are going up in all directions in Aylmer – a very striking indication of the growth of the town” (Ottawa Journal, 27 April 1898, p. 5).


But from the point of view of the development of the Victoria Golf Club, perhaps the most interesting consequence of the extension of the electric railway was the creation along the lakeshore of a summer colony of cottagers, who built summer homes mid-way between the Hotel Victoria and Victoria Park.


This summer cottage colony was known as “The Cedars,” comprising summer homes of two storeys with as many as six bedrooms, as well as related outbuildings (including stables, buggy houses, woodsheds, and boathouses). The Cedars formed the western boundary of the Victoria Golf Club’s links. Seventeen of these cottages are marked on the 1906 topographical map below.

Figure 17 Cottages known as "The Cedars" (this phrase is added in orange above) are marked as black squares on a 1906 topographical map of the area.

Even the Montreal newspapers noticed the burst of development in Aylmer brought on by the arrival of the electric railway:

Among Canada’s many beautiful summer resorts is one situated on the north bank of the Ottawa, on the shores of Lake Deschenes. Though hitherto somewhat neglected, the charms of Aylmer, Que., as a summer resort are unsurpassed in Canada. Standing as it does on the shores of this lovely lake, exceptional facilities are offered for bathing, boating, fishing, and sailing.


This year many handsome and picturesque summer residences have gone up and paved the way for making Aylmer the summer resort of eastern Canada. Among others is the very handsome residence of Mr. Conroy, one of Ottawa’s lumber kings. Many summer cottages have been built and prominent Ottawa citizens and their families will enjoy the exceptionally fine advantages of this spot. (Montreal Star, 17 July 1897, p. 9)


By the summer of 1899, this summer colony was well established, and it was still growing, as explained by an article in the Ottawa Journal:




A Resort That Is Steadily Growing in Popularity


Aylmer is rapidly coming to the front as one of the most popular of the suburban summer resorts of the Capital. Every year the number of summer residents at the place is becoming larger and the fame of the resort is taking on a complexion by no means wholly local. As all Ottawans know and likely have seen for themselves, Aylmer is situated on Lake Deschenes, about seven miles above the city and has many advantages that recommend it to those who wish to escape as much as possible the heat of the summer. It is put within easy access by a first-class electric car service, but apart from this a good high-road with a pleasant view makes it a favorite objective point for bicyclists.


“The Cedars”


The summer residents do not confine themselves to Aylmer proper, but are located, many of them, in pretty cottages at “The Cedars,” near the Queen’s Park, a mile or so above the village. Then others make their quarters in the Victoria Hotel.


A prettier spot than the land adjoining this could not soon be found. The hotel, located on top of a hill, commands a fine view of the lake. Terraces dotted with flower beds slope down to the shore, where every facility is made for boating and canoeing. The view up and across the lake for the distance of nearly a mile is intercepted only by the hills on the Ontario shore.


The Center of Gaiety


The Victoria Hotel is throughout the season the center of gaiety and mirth in Aylmer. Balls and parties are held at different times, and the house is likewise well equipped for such indoor games as billiards and pool.


The place at which the cottages are built is termed The Cedars and Echo Bay, about halfway between the Victoria Hotel and Queen’s Park. In connection with some of the cottages, two storey wooden structures which face the river, boat houses have been built on the shore. Bathing also may be enjoyed.


Queen’s Park, near at hand, furnishes an extensive playground for children and has several novelties in the way of the chute and the maze. Thus every facility for a summer’s enjoyment is afforded. Besides the regular summer residents there are always a number of transient visitors who are attracted by the scenery and come out in the cars. (6 July 1899, pp. 2, 8)


According to the writer of the Ottawa Citizen’s society-news column, “Ottawa’s Vanity Fair,” the Hotel Victoria was among the foremost of resorts as a refuge from the heat of the city:


It was only when one reached the broad verandahs of the Victoria that one realized the wonderful difference in the temperature of the coolest spot in the city and the shore of Lake Deschenes. After the concentrated and enervating heat of the day, one found oneself in a veritable paradise immediately on reaching the hotel, as nothing short of a breeze, a strong, cool invigorating breeze, was sweeping down from every side. No wonder the hotel is becoming such a favorite resort of our citizens, and that so many of our American cousins are finding out what a charming summer retreat it is. (3 July 1899, p. 7)


During the summer of 1899, cottage owners were in residence for the whole summer and the hotel was filled to capacity, and full of activity.


The result was, on the one hand, that an enterprising young woman was able to publish a self-financing hotel newspaper called the Victoria Buzz (in which Aylmer businesses paid to advertise, newspaper profits buying a wheelchair for a local hospital) and, on the other hand, that the hotel owners decided to add a new storey to the hotel and thereby increase its capacity by one-third (Ottawa Journal, 9 September 1899, p. 7; 24 August 1899, p. 7).


Among the summer-long residents at “The Cedars” or the Hotel Victoria in 1899 were many members of the Ottawa Golf Club, such as Charles Magee (the club’s many-term vice-president in the 1890s), A. B. Broderick (its secretary and treasurer in 1899), George H. Perley (a member of the executive committee in 1899 who would become president in 1900), Wilson M. Southam, Robert Conroy, W.H. Rowley, James Gibson, Charles E. Turner (the U.S. Consul-General), W.A. Almon, and many others.


And many of these members’ family members also played golf, such as Almon’s daughter, Turner’s wife, and Gibson’s son (who won the Ottawa Golf Club’s boys’ championship of 1894).


Today, the waterfront properties in this area have as their address: “Rue de la cedrière.”

The Ottawa Golf Club's Chelsea Links: A Trip "Too Far"

Most of the members of the Victoria Golf Club were also members of the Ottawa Golf Club. Recall their complaint as reported in the Montreal Herald: “The golf players who make Aylmer their homes during the summer months find the links near Ottawa on the Chelsea Road too far” (13 June 1899, p. 4). Toronto’s Saturday Night magazine made the same observation about the geographical motivation of the Ottawa Golf Club members who had formed the new Victoria Golf Club: “It has its golf links nine miles from Ottawa, but really more get-at-able than the Chelse links, which, though only three miles from town, are not reached by any street-car, not by water, but only by carriage or bicycle over a large stretch of very bad roads” (24 June 1899, p. 3).

Figure 18 Brigham Homestead, Chelsea Road, circa 1930s.

The Hull Electric Railway did not run a line as far as the Ottawa Golf Club’s golf course on the Chelsea Road, where the clubhouse was located in the old Brigham homestead where Mountain Road terminated at Chelsea Road.


The first tee of the golf course that became known as the “Chelsea Links” played out of the walled-in back yard of the clubhouse, and then two holes played back and forth across the Chelsea Road on the north side of Mountain Road (today called Rue Gamelin).

Then four holes worked across open fields, interspersed with a few trees, toward the north-east corner of the property that the club rented, the seventh hole ending near where the railway tracks of the Gatineau Valley Railway and the CPR crossed near the shore of Lac Leamy. Here, the eighth tee was located, at the furthest point from the clubhouse. From here, five holes worked their way back to the clubhouse, the thirteenth and last hole requiring a shot over the ruins of an old stable to reach the clubhouse backyard not far from the first tee.


The painting below shows men and women playing the Chelsea Links course, each wearing the red golf jackets popular in the 1890s: one couple plays on the first green located at the base of an elm tree fed by a spring issuing from the clubhouse backyard (from which they have played their tee shots over a high wall), and another couple tees off on the short thirteenth hole, attempting to carry their shots over the ruined stable onto the last green, which was laid out in the clubhouse backyard.

Figure 19 Painting showing play on the Chelsea Links of the Ottawa Golf Club, which were in play from 1896 to 1904. The north side of the Brigham Homestead clubhouse is visible beyond the wall on the right side of the painting.

The difficulty of getting to the Chelsea Road golf course was an issue for the Ottawa Golf Club from the start:


The Ottawa Golf Club are likely to have new links this season. Building operations have interfered considerably the past season or two with the links near the rifle range, and this year a row of houses is to be erected on the best part of the playing ground. So the club are looking for new links. They have been offered grounds on the Chelsea Road, about half a mile out of Hull. The grounds offered are ideal for the sport, level and clear. The distance is the only drawback. But the club expect that a spur of the Hull Electric Railway will run out to Wright’s quarry, and it is only a quarter of a mile from there; besides most of the members have bicycles. So it is likely the new grounds will be accepted. (Ottawa Journal, 17 April 1896, p. 1)


Bicycles indeed became the main means of access to the Chelsea Links for the members who regularly played golf – or, to be more accurate, bicycles were ridden to the golf course “when the roads [were] in good shape for wheeling” (Ottawa Journal, 12 April 1897, p. 6).


Whether the dirt road was passable also determined whether the Friday teas put on by the ladies were well-attended: “Mrs. Fletcher and the Misses Sparks gave a tea yesterday afternoon at the golf grounds, which, owing to the lovely weather and good condition of the roads, was largely attended, many people riding out on bicycles” (Ottawa Daily Citizen, 29 May 1897, p. 7).


But, of course, the dirt of the Chelsea Road was not always in good shape for bicycles: it might be muddy after rain; it might be soft after grading; traffic might have carved deep ruts into the road. Conditions occasionally became so bad that some club members were driven to ride on the sidewalks instead of the road, and they were fined for it: “Recorder Champagne, of Hull, had a little game with several prominent members of the golf club the other day. The links were laid out in the court room and the man of justice won out in each case by three bills up, and more to pay if the sidewalk bicycling is persisted in” (Ottawa Citizen, 1 June 1901, p. 10).


The Ottawa Golf Club’s expectation that a spur of the Hull Electric Railway would run close to the clubhouse was disappointed, such that a stop-gap measure was put in place in the spring of 1899: “Arrangements have been made to have buses leave the terminus of the electric railway for the links at 10:30 and at 11 o’clock in the morning and at 2:30 and 3 o’clock in the afternoon, the fare being ten cents. This arrangement will no doubt be much appreciated by those interested in golf” (Ottawa Journal, 29 May 1899, p. 8).


By 1900, the electric railway had still had not been extended any nearer the Chelsea Links, and so the problem endured and continued to prompt negative comment:


Apropos of extending trolley lines, it might be with reason pointed out to … the Ottawa Club that some step of this kind could with advantage be taken …. The distance from the end of the track to the club-house is extremely inconvenient. Who on earth wants to walk half a mile on a hot summer’s day carrying a bag of clubs and a portmanteau? (Golf, vol 6 no 5 ([May 1900], p. 322)


In part because no one fancied walking or wheeling along a dusty or muddy dirt road on a hot, humid Ottawa summer day to reach the Chelsea Links, the golf course was virtually unused during the summer.


The other factor in this abandonment of the Chelsea Links was the absence from Ottawa of most of the golf club’s playing members during the high summer. Most of these people left the city with their families to escape the heat at resorts along the Gatineau River or the Ottawa River, especially as improving train service along the Gatineau River and along each side of the Ottawa River allowed people to commute to their offices in Ottawa as required.


And so, we read in the summer of 1897 that the Chelsea Links had almost been abandoned:


Golf Not Commenced


The golf links are almost deserted yet. The members are getting back to town but the game will not be commenced for a few weeks yet. (Ottawa Journal, 26 August 1897, p. 6)


Similarly, in the summer of 1899, in particular, with the Victoria Golf Club in full swing (offering a distinct alternative to the trek along the Chelsea Road), the women who put on the weekly golf teas at the Ottawa Golf Club announced at the beginning of July that “The golf teas have been discontinued for the summer” (Ottawa Citizen, 5 July 1899, p. 5). Not surprisingly, we read three weeks later: “The Ottawa Golf Club is at present resting on its oars. The weather is so hot that it has driven the majority of the players out of the city and they will not likely return before September” (Ottawa Journal, 26 July 1899, p. 3). And the story was the same in mid-August: “The local golfers are practically taking a rest during the present month, and there is scarcely anything doing at the links on the Chelsea Road” (Ottawa Journal, 17 August 1899, p. 3).


But there was golf played at the Victoria Golf Club throughout the summer of 1899.


On the one hand, the location of its Aylmer golf course was much more convenient to any of the active members of the Ottawa Golf Club based in Ottawa: “Though farther from the city, it is much more accessible than the present links, as it can be reached in half an hour by electric cars” (Herald [Montreal], 1 April 1899, p. 14).


On the other hand, a significant number of Ottawa Golf Club members virtually lived on the new golf club’s links: some spent the summer with their families in rooms at the Hotel Victoria; others owned or rented cottages north-west of the hotel along the shore of Lake Deschênes in “The Cedars.”


And so, the Victoria Golf Club not only solved a geographical problem (matching the location of its golf course with the summer location of many members of the Ottawa Golf Club); it also solved for golfers the problem of Ottawa’s oppressive summer weather: the continuous breezes off Lake Deschênes made it possible to play golf comfortably during the day (and to sleep soundly afterwards).

Golf Course Location

The links was “within three minutes walk of the Victoria hotel” (Ottawa Citizen, 28 February 1899, p. 6). Saturday Night said, “the links extend from the hotel some distance up along the lake shore” (24 June 1899, p. 3). The Montreal Star depicted “the links reaching from the grounds of the hotel away up the shores of Lake Deschenes” (13 June 1899, p. 4). The course began north-west of the hotel and ran up the shore of Lake Deschênes to Victoria Park, as shown on the map below by a purple line.

Figure 20 Topographical map, 1906. Detail enlarged and modified.

The hotel grounds had largely been cleared of trees and brush. By 1899, they had been formally landscaped to include terraced flower beds and areas for lawn bowling, walking, picnicking, and so on.

Figure 21 In a postcard circa 1900, a family is seen on the grounds north-west of the Hotel Victoria.

The people appearing in the photograph above were located on the north-west side of the hotel.


Another photograph of what seems to be many of the same people out on the hotel’s wharf reveals in the background the Hotel Victoria, the town of Aylmer southeast of it, and the land further north-west of the hotel grounds that reached along the shore of Lake Deschênes towards Victoria Park.

Figure 22 Hotel Victoria guests seen on the hotel wharf in a postcard circa 1900.

The land to their left is where the golf course began. We can see that it sloped significantly down toward the shores of the lake, and we can also see that it seems to have a good number of trees along the shore – perhaps stands of cedar trees such as those that had to be cleared during the construction of the cottages that came to be known as “The Cedars.”


A grand pavilion (seen of the left of the photograph below) was at the north-west boundary of the hotel grounds. It was used in the summers for orchestra performances and dances known as “hops.”

Figure 23 The large pavilion appears on the left side of the photograph, north-west of the hotel.

And slightly further north-west of the pavilion was the giant toboggan slide, built in 1898.

Figure 24 Toboggan slide of the Hotel Victoria, circa 1899.

As we can see in the photograph above, the toboggan slide was located north-west of the hotel pavilion. The toboggans ran down the natural slope of the land toward the shore of Lake Deschênes, crossing over the tracks of the electric railway on their way. It must have been in this area that the first tee and last green of the Victoria Golf Club’s links were laid out.


The run of the golf course along the shore of Lake Deschênes would have been limited at its north-west end by the grounds of Victoria Park and the adjoining summer home of Robert Conroy on the park’s south-eastern side, both properties having been completely fenced off by the spring of 1898 (Ottawa Journal, 11 May 1898, p. 5).


From the wharf of Victoria Park, we can see in the photograph below a view of the shore of Lake Deschênes stretching south-east toward Aylmer: the lakeshore that we see (along with the cottages built along the shoreline halfway between the hotel and the park) presumably represents the western boundary of the Victoria Golf Club’s links.

Figure 25 A postcard view toward Aylmer form the wharf of Victoria Park, circa 1900.

We see on the left side of the photograph the tracks of the Hull Electric Railway as they reach Victoria Park. In the centre of the photograph is Echo Bay, where the cottages of “The Cedars” were located. A hazy image on the horizon may well be Hotel Victoria.

Golf Course Nature

The distance from Hotel Victoria to Victoria Park was about 1.5 miles, or about 2,600 yards.


The golf course began several hundred yards from the Hotel Victoria itself and it will have ended some distance short of Robert Conroy’s summer property on the south-east side of the Victoria Park complex. So, I suspect that the golf course was probably a nine-hole layout, with four or five holes going out toward Victoria Park and another four or five holes coming back to the Hotel Victoria.


The length of such a golf course itself would have been around 2,500 yards. Note that in 1896, when Shinnecock Hills hosted both the U.S Open and the U.S. amateur Championship, the 18-hole course was 4,437 yards long. Because scoring was low, the golf course was lengthened to about 5,000 yards in the late 1890s. Similarly, in 1899, when the thirteen holes of the Chelsea Links were played as an 18-hole circuit for the Canadian Amateur Championships, the length of the Ottawa Golf Club course was 5,002 yards. So, the standard nine-hole course of the late 1890s would have been no more than half the length of these championship layouts (that is, between 2,200 and 2,500 yards).


Note also that in 1898-99, when the Victoria Golf Club’s links was laid out, the key objective in designing every golf hole, whether it was 100 yards long or 500 yards long, was to create a line of play for each hole that would require golfers to propel a golf ball through the air over an otherwise impassable barrier. The golfer who could not raise the ball off the ground was to be penalized by hazards from which the ball could be extricated only with difficulty – if at all.


This architectural practice was known as “penal design.”


Obviously, it had no sympathy for the beginner or the inveterate duffer.


The chapter called “The Making and Keeping of Golf Courses” in Garden Smith’s The World of Golf (London: A.D. Innis & Co., 1898) explains the general principle applied in penal course design:


As a general principle, at every hole, except on the putting green where it brings its own reward, a bad shot should be followed by a bad lie, and a good shot should be correspondingly rewarded by a good one. Now it is impossible, at every hole, to provide a fitting punishment for every kind of bad shot…. But there is one kind of bad stroke which by universal consent must be summarily punished, whenever and wherever it is perpetrated, and that is a “topped shot.” The reasons for this are obvious. The shot has been missed and missed badly, but on hard ground or against a wind, a topped ball will sometimes run as far, or even further, than a clean hit one, and the player will suffer no disadvantage from his mistake. Wherefore, in making your first tee, select a spot some sixty yards in front of which a yawing bunker stretches right across the course, and if it be so narrow, or so shallow, that a topped ball will jump over it, dig it wider and deeper, so that balls crossing its jaws will inevitably be swallowed up. (pp. 87-88)


Penal design theory had been popularized in Britain in the late 1880s and throughout the 1890s by the golf course designs of Tom Dunn, and it was popularized in North America by his apprentice and younger brother, Willie Dunn, Jr, who arrived in North America in the mid-1890s to work as the golf professional at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club.


At Shinnecock Hills, Willie Dunn, Jr, added six holes to the twelve holes laid out by the Royal Montreal Golf Club’s professional Willie Davis in the summer of 1891. (Davis had laid out the twelve-hole links of the Ottawa Golf Club in the spring of 1891 before going to New York to lay out the course at Shinnecock Hills.) As the USGA explains in “The Evolution of Shinnecock Hills Golf Course,” Davis and Dunn between them laid out a course absolutely in accord with penal design principles:


The Davis/Dunn course … reflected the architecture then prevalent on late Victorian English inland courses. The course’s mostly straight holes were traversed by cross hazards in the form of “cop” bunkers, ravines, ditches, roads, rail lines or other obstacles.


Following Victorian design tenets, such hazards were placed so that players were required to hit over them and for that reason they were often called “carry” hazards. They could be quite severe, on the rationale that the worst miss – the dreaded topped shot – deserved the most severe punishment.


Typical of courses of the period, Shinnecock’s cross hazards were set at prescribed distances from tees or greens …. that were often flat, square and largely without bunkering.




And when the course was lengthened to about 5,000 yards in the late 1890s (after Dunn had left), the new design maintained as they were originally laid out both the two holes that required a carry over the road to the clubhouse and the three holes that required carries over the railway track. In fact, a new 34 hole was routed to require another carry over the railway track, as can be seen on the diagram below (in which the new holes are marked by solid lines and the old holes by broken lines).

Figure 26 1897 diagram of changes to "Shinnecock Hills Golf Links." The words "Rail Road" are highlighted in yellow and the word "Road" is highlighted in orange. New holes are drawn with solid lines; old holes, with broken lines. It is clear that in 1897, the Rail Road and the Road were essential hazards on what everyone agreed was one of the greatest golf courses in the United States.

Penal design became so ubiquitous that it was recommended in Guide to Golf in America in 1897, the Wright & Ditson sporting-goods company’s instructions on how to build a golf course: “there should be always some hazard or bunker to trap a poorly played drive” (p. 29). And in the 1890s, a proper hazard, we now know, included fences, roads, railway tracks, houses, and so on. As Smith explains, “If no bunker is to be had, a pond will do equally well, or a railway, or a hedge, or a wall – anything, in short, that is impassable” (The World of Golf, pp. 87-88).


It is no surprise, then, that when reviewing the best golf courses in the New York and New Jersey area for Scribner’s Magazine in 1895, golf writer Henry Howland noted hazards of precisely these sorts as the ones that prevailed on the top courses in the United States at the time. At Shinnecock Hills, he observed, “The hazards are mainly … some stretches of sand, a railroad embankment, and deep roads, that are tests of skill and temper”; St Andrews, “at Yonkers on the Hudson …., is an inland course of stone-wall hazards [and] rocky pastures”; the hazards at the Tuxedo Club include “hills, stone walls, railroad embankments lined with blast-furnace slag, … brook, boulders, and road”; “at the Essex County Club of Manchester-by-the-Sea,” “the hazards are nearly all natural, consisting of fences, barns, roadways …” (May 1895, vol XVII no 5, pp. 531-33).


Closer to home, in 1896, when the Kingston Golf Club played a match against the Ottawa Golf Club on the latter’s new Chelsea Links in Hull, the Daily British Whig noted that “the grounds were interesting and picturesque and several novelties were presented to the Kingston team in the shape of walls and old houses over which they had to play” (26 May 1896, p. 4). The writer failed to mention the other hazards such as railway tracks, roads and fences on many holes, such as the 250-yard 8th hole that proceeded from Lac Leamy back toward the clubhouse, where from the tee, a “railway, a road, and fences face [the] drive” (Ottawa Citizen, 26 September 1899, p. 6).


Tough hole.


And so, it is no surprise to learn of the hazards that Willie Davis included in his 1891 penal design for the Ottawa Golf Club. The Secretary of the club wrote to the editor of the Golfing Annual of 1894 to explain that the Ottawa Golf Club’s Sandy Hill links was “intersected by sand bunkers, roads, fences, and patches of rough ground” (p. 351). As though he had not made himself quite clear, he wrote the next year to emphasize the penal chops of the Ottawa links: “The course of nine holes is an exceedingly difficult one, being intersected in all directions by heavy bunkers, hills, roads, and rough ground” (Golfing Annual 1895, p. 400).


And so although golf architects today would happily note that the land along the shore of Lake Deschênes declines from a height of 350 feet above sea level at its northern tip to less than 200 feet above sea level near the lakeshore, providing wonderful opportunities to include elevation changes in the routing of golf holes, and although such architects would also appreciate the two creeks that could be included as hazards in the routing of golf holes, the architect of 1898 would have been even more interested in the fact that the land was crossed on a generally north-south axis by two roadways and on a generally east-west axis by two railway tracks.


We can be confident that a large number of the golf holes on the Victoria Golf Club’s links would have been routed so as to cross at right-angles the pre-existing railway tracks, roads, fences, and creeks of the sloping land along the lakeshore between the Hotel Victoria and Victoria Park. And the distance of these hazards from tees and greens would have been quite regular – in perfect accord with the penal design conventions of the day.


Of course, the architect will also have availed himself of any large areas of naturally exposed sand to force carries for drives and approach shots, but no artificial bunkers would have been excavated to create a new hazard unless the land was absolutely featureless, in which case “cop” bunkers would have been constructed: earth dikes raised three or four feet high, perpendicular to the line of play, stretching across the entire width of a fairway, with a shallow ditch dug against its base on the tee side of the hole to trap the topped shot that thudded into the bunker’s steep wall.


An example of such a cop bunker is seen below at the newly-designed nine-hole course at Flushing Meadow, New York, in 1901.

Figure 27 A “cop” bunker at Flushing, New York, designed 1901 by Walter J. Travis and John Duncan Dunn (nephew of Willie Dunn, Jr), to create a hazard on flat, featureless land.

Whose Design?

The golf course of the Victoria Golf Club was said to have been a very good one – according to the standards of the day described above!


As opening day approached, the writer of the Montreal Herald’s “Society Notes from the Capital” offered an assessment of the potential of the new golf course: “With the exception of the links at Quebec, those of the Ottawa Golf Club are considered the best in Canada. A still better ground has been offered at Aylmer, the pretty little village on the Quebec side of the Ottawa River nine miles up” (Herald [Montreal], 1 April 1899, p. 14). The Montreal Star concurred: “All of the conditions are there for making this one of the most perfect golf grounds in Canada” (Montreal Star, 13 June 1899, p. 4).




And yet no one today has even heard of it.


When was this potentially great golf course laid out, and by whom?


A newspaper report in February of 1899 mentions that “considerable preparatory work has already been done upon” the golf grounds, which – assuming that the “preparatory work” in question was not done during January and February of 1899 when the ground was frozen and snow-covered – suggests a starting date for work on the course sometime in 1898 (Ottawa Citizen, 28 February 1899, p. 6).


The course was ready for play by the end of April:




First Practice Saturday


The members of the Aylmer [sic] Golf Club expect to hold their first practice on Saturday, as it is thought by that time the holes will be ready. The membership of the club is increasing and the out-look for a prosperous season was never brighter. (Ottawa Citizen, 27 April 1899, p. 6)


When we read in the newspaper report in February of 1899 that the “Grounds … are described as exceptionally good,” we may find here a paraphrase of the report by the person who was commissioned to assess the prospects of the grounds for golf – probably the person who laid out the course (Ottawa Citizen, 28 February 1899, p. 6).


Who might that golf professional have been?


Since most of the promoters of the Victoria Golf Club were also members of the Ottawa Golf Club, it is likely that they availed themselves of the expert advice of their own golf professional.


When it decided to move from Sandy Hill in Ottawa to the Chelsea Road in Hull, the Ottawa Golf Club had used its own golf professional, Alfred Ricketts, to lay out the new thirteen-hole golf course that became known as the Chelsea Links. He had served at the Ottawa Golf Club from March of 1893 to November of 1895, at which point he left for the Albany Golf and Country Club of New York.

Figure 28 Alfred Ricketts drives "The Lane" in the late 1890s at the Country Club of Rochester. Democrat and Chronicle, 28 October 1923, p. 38

After Ricketts left for the United States, the Ottawa Golf Club was without a first-class golf professional until the appointment in March of 1904 of John Oke, from Richmond, England. Oke had been an apprentice of Open champion J.H. Taylor, and he would prove that he was indeed a first-class golfer by winning the first Canadian Open Golf Championship in July of 1904.


The Ottawa Golf Club was said to have “made do” for several years in the late 1890s and early 1900s with a greenkeeper in lieu of a proper golf professional. But as we shall see, the club was served for three years by the first Canadian-born golf professional, a man trained by Ricketts himself, and then it was served for five years by a freelance golf professional trained on the famous West Links of North Berwick, Scotland.

One or the other of these men probably designed the Victoria Golf Club links, which were laid out around the time that the first one left the Ottawa Golf Club and the other one joined it.

Joseph Baizana: The First Canadian-Born Golf Professional

After Ricketts’ first year at the Ottawa Golf Club, the club’s president Lieutenant-Colonel D.T. Irwin “spoke very kindly of the professional Ricketts,” affirming that he “was a good ground man” (Ottawa Journal, 4 April 1894, p. 7). That is, Ricketts was regarded a good greenkeeper: in the late 1800s and early 1900s, what we call a greenkeeper or course superintendent was more often called a ground man or a caretaker – especially in the Ottawa newspapers, whose reporters were not familiar with golf.


And confidence in Ricketts’ abilities not just a greenkeeper, but as a golf expert in general, only became stronger over the course of his three years with the club.


So, in the spring of 1895, still hoping that it might be able to continue at its Sandy Hill golf course for a few more years before suburban development forced it to relocate, the Ottawa Golf Club authorised Ricketts to hire and train an assistant so that a vigorous programme of course improvement could be undertaken: “various changes and improvements have been decided on, an assistant to the professional has been engaged, and every effort will be made to have the green [that is, the golf course] the finest in America” (Ottawa Journal, 13 April 1895, p. 7).


The assistant professional of the 1890s was effectively an apprentice to the head golf professional, learning from him all that a professional must know: how to keep a green, how to play the game, how to teach the game, how to make clubs, how to design a links, and how to manage caddies. Rumours emerged in 1895 that Ricketts might leave the club, so it is possible that the club authorized the hiring of an assistant so that it would not be left without a golf professional should Ricketts leave.


Given that apprenticeship to a golf professional often lasted as many as five years, how much Ricketts’ assistant professional could have learned from him over the course of the nine months he spent with him in 1895 is an open question. Presumably, he would at least have learned the basic greenkeeping techniques and ground maintenance schedules required to keep the various parts of a golf links healthy and playable over the course of a golf season.


The assistant professional in question is never identified in the Ottawa newspapers, but it is virtually certain that he was Joseph Baizana (1866-1950). After Ricketts left for the United States, Baizana (sometimes misspelled Bazana, Bazena, Bazina, Baezana, Bezano, etc.) was listed in Ottawa City Directories from 1896 to 1899 as the “caretaker” for the Ottawa Golf Club.


Baizana’s residence was always given as the clubhouse of the Ottawa Golf Club, first the original clubhouse at the corner of Russell and Osgoode in Sandy Hill, and then the clubhouse on the Chelsea Road (sometimes also called the Gatineau Road), which was the first building on the east side of the road north of the toll gate.


Variously called a caretaker or greenkeeper (even called the club’s “guardian” in a late 1890s city of Ottawa directory!), and calling himself a “professional golf player,” Baizana may well have had an ambiguous and evolving status at the Ottawa Golf Club.


An article published in the Montreal Star suggests how he was regarded by some: “Since the inception of the club, when Alf. Ricketts was professional, the club has had no professional, but has been satisfied with a ground man” (19 April 1904, p. 2). The “ground man” in question was apparently Baizana.


Yet it is also clear that at some point during his four years with the club, “ground man” Baizana came to fulfill one of the golf professional’s typical functions – playing rounds of golf with club members: “In the early days of golf, Mr. Baizana played with Sir George Perley and several other prominent men” (Ottawa Citizen, 15 June 1940, p. 6).


Toward the end of the 1898 golf season, the Ottawa Golf Club’s secretary, Alexander Simpson, informed Josiah Newman, editor of The Official Golf Guide of 1899 (New York, 1899), that “Joseph Bazano” was the club’s “greenkeeper” (p. 318). Note that The Official Golf Guide used the words “greenkeeper” and “professional” almost interchangeably, such that the Toronto Golf Club’s golf professional from 1895 to 1899, Arthur Smith (he was thirteenth at the 1899 U.S. Open, two strokes ahead of Ricketts), was also listed as “greenkeeper.”


Golf professional Smith was also called the club’s “greenkeeper” when the club’s course record was attributed to him in Golf (“an Official Bulletin of the United States Golf Association”) the year before (vol 2 no. 4 [April 1898], p. 18).


And so, it is not surprising to find that when Baizana acquired his own residence in Ottawa late in 1898 or early in 1899, he gave his occupation as that of “professional golf player.” He knew what he had become since his days as Ricketts’ assistant, even though some Ottawa Golf Club members were reluctant to accord him a status beyond “ground man.”


And since he was born in St. André d’Argenteuil, Quebec, Joseph Baizana would therefore seem to have been Canada’s first native-born golf professional.


Baizana’s father Alfred had immigrated to Canada from Genoa, Italy, and married Marguerite Metivier of Nicolet, Quebec.


Married in Marguerite’s hometown, the couple moved their family to Ottawa in 1866, where Marguerite established herself as a confectioner and Alfred became a famous sculptor: “He made the first bust of Sir Wilfrid Laurier,” and “the fine decoration work at which he was an expert is found in hundreds of the older Ottawa residences” (Ottawa 4 February 1944, p. 12; 14 March 1940, p. 6)

Figure 29 Alfred Baizana stands in the doorway of his shop on Sussex Drive, Ottawa, Ontario, in the early 1900s.

Joseph Baizana began work as an electric lineman in the 1880s, a fact that may have led after his career as golf professional ended to his employment by the Ottawa Electric Railway Company.


But Baizana was also an exceptional athlete, excelling at various racket sports, including “real tennis” (a game played on an indoor court – about 18 meters by 9 meters – with four walls, all of which were in play), as well as lawn tennis. He served for a number of years as the professional of the Quebec Raquet Court and then the Ottawa Racket Court, and he also competed in professional “real tennis” competitions in Ontario and Quebec.

Figure 30 Quebec Morning Chronicle, 29 June 1894, p. 4. Harry Boakes was regarded as the court tennis champion of Canada in the early 1890s.

Through his professional standing in racket sports, Baizana probably became known to various members of the Ottawa Golf Club before the club had even been formed.


Lieutenant-Colonel D.T. Irwin, for instance, was a dedicated and skilful tennis player before a knee injury in the late 1880s led him to explore golf as an alternative expression of his enthusiasm for sports, leading to his becoming one of the founders of the Ottawa Golf Club in 1891.

And so, when the idea of hiring an assistant for Ricketts arose near the beginning of the 1895 golf season, the athletically gifted electric lineman that some of them already knew as a tennis pro may have been the first candidate to have come to mind.


In a 1940 newspaper article about the five generations of the Baizana family then living in Ottawa, when Joseph was seventy-four years old, there is a brief account of his history in local sports:


Mr. Baizana was widely known as a professional golfer and racket player. For many years he served as professional at the old Ottawa Racket Court …. Professional tournaments took him to Quebec, Montreal and other points.


Mr. Baizana was professional and caretaker at the old Royal Ottawa Golf Club. The club was then located where the Hull plant of the Canada Cement Company now stands. In the early days of golf, Mr. Baizana played with Sir George Perley and several other prominent men. He also played tennis in his younger days. He is still of robust health. (Ottawa Citizen, 15 June 1940, p. 6)


At the end of 1895, two things became clear to the Ottawa Golf Club: it would have to leave Sandy Hill, and its golf professional Alf Ricketts was intent on leaving Ottawa. So, before he left, Ricketts was asked to lay out a thirteen-hole golf course on the approximately 90 acres of land acquired by the club along the Chelsea Road, and Joseph Baizana was asked to carry on at the club in the way that Ricketts had trained him to do.

Figure 31 Joseph Baizana, aged 74. Ottawa Citizen, 15 June 1940, p. 6.

The last thing that Ricketts taught Baizana may well have been how to lay out a golf course: it is likely that in the late summer of 1895 the two of them together staked out thirteen tees and greens through the fields that came to be called the Chelsea Links. (In The Official Golf Guide, Josiah Newman says that “This well-kept course was laid out by A. Ricketts in September, 1894,” but the year must have been 1895 [New Yok, 1899, p. 318].)


In the years that followed the move to the new location, Baizana’s work on realizing Ricketts’ vision for the Chelsea Links certainly pleased the members of the Ottawa Golf Club.

In April of 1897, President Irwin observed that although the members already have “fine grounds to play on,” “Improvements were now going on, and, when finished, the grounds … would be unsurpassed” (Ottawa Daily Citizen, 7 April 1897, p. 7). Similarly, when we read ten days later in the Ottawa Journal that “a staff of gardeners are at work on the greens” and that “everything will be in first class shape within a few days,” we see again that the work of Baizana and his grounds crew was meeting with success (17 April 1897, p. 7).

Note that like the words “caretaker” and “ground man,” the word “gardener” was a term often used for a greenkeeper in the 1890s (as were the words “green man,” “park keeper,” “keeper of the green,” and so on). Golf was so new to North America that neither newspaper writers nor census takers yet knew what to call the jobs associated with the upkeep of what they often called a golf ground or a golf field.


And neither had terms become settled in Britain, where, for instance, the esteemed golf writer Horace G. Hutchison referred in 1899 to those who laid out golf courses not as architects or designers, but rather as “gardeners”: “it should be the study of the links-scape gardener to lay out his links in such a way as to make the golf as difficult as possible, consistently with giving the reasonably well played shot a reasonable chance of achieving success” (Golf, vol 8 no 6 [April 1899], p. 279).


In the 1890s, the golf professional was always also the greenkeeper. In fact, he was at least five people in one: greenkeeper, crack golfer, swing instructor, clubmaker, and architect. He was often also a sixth person: the caddie master. And so, when we read in the spring of 1898 not only that “the grounds are in first-class order,” but also that “The club has 28 caddies registered in their books and all are provided with badges,” we are probably reading once again of Baizana’s work at the club (Ottawa Citizen, 25 April 1898, p. 6). The caddies’ badges would have been numbered to indicate seniority, with Baizana sending the caddies out according to their number, unless a member asked for a particular caddie.


Note also that the Ottawa Golf Club allowed only golf professionals to “improve” its golf grounds: first, Willie Davis, who laid out the Sandy Hill course in 1891, and then Alf Ricketts, the resident golf professional from 1893 to 1895, who made improvements to the Sandy Hill course and who also laid out the Chelsea Links. So, when the newspapers began to report on improvements to the Chelsea Links in 1897, and when we read in April of 1898 that “The club contemplates making a considerable outlay in improving the links,” we have good reason to believe that the Ottawa Golf Club regarded Baizana as a very capable golf professional (Ottawa Journal, 6 April 1898, p. 6).


At some point in 1898, however, Baizana left the Ottawa Golf Club and became a driver for the Ottawa Electric Railway, a position he held for the next thirty-five years.


In 1898, was Joseph Baizana the one who advised those planning the Victoria Golf Club that the land they proposed to develop as their golf course was “exceptionally good” (Ottawa Citizen, 28 February 1899, p. 6).


If so, did he also stake out for them a preliminary routing of the holes?

Two for One

Joseph Baizana could have argued that he was so important to the Ottawa Golf Club that it took two men to replace him.


In the spring of 1899, Baizana was succeeded as “caretaker” of the Ottawa Golf Club by John Martin Fuller and he was succeeded as golf professional by William Allison Divine.


One of them was capable of laying out a golf course for the Victoria Golf Club; the other one was not.

Caretaker Fuller

In the spring of 1899, John Martin Fuller moved his large family from the village of Hintonburg on the outskirts of Ottawa into the clubhouse of the Ottawa Golf Club on the Chelsea Road on the outskirts of Hull.


John Fuller (1874-1933) and wife Sarah (Bentick) Fuller (1874-1925), a couple born, raised, and married in Soham, Cambridgeshire, England, settled in Hintonburg when they came to Ottawa in 1875, just a few months after they were married. For 19 years, Fuller worked on Richmond Road for a man named J. Durie, but in the fall of 1895, he “purchased a horse and rig and [went] into the parcel delivery business” (Ottawa Journal, 8 November 1895, p. 8).


Early in 1899, however, he was hired to be the caretaker of the Ottawa Golf Club. The writer of the Hiontonburg news for the Ottawa Journal, however, had no idea what taking care of a golf course involved, so we read: “Mr. John Fuller of Ninth Avenue is moving to the province of Quebec where he will take up farming” (25 March 1899, p. 5).


Farmer Fuller presumably assumed the duties of the keeper of the green. We can certainly see that when the Ottawa Golf club moved to its new site on the Aylmer Road in 1904, caretaker Fuller was responsible for managing the golf course grass: “The Ottawa Golf Club offers free grazing for sheep, at owner’s risk, for this season at their grounds on the Aylmer Road. Apply Caretaker, Club House” (Ottawa Citizen, 3 May 1904, p. 1). It is likely that he acquired experience of using sheep to keep the golf course grass short while the club was at its Chelsea Links:


SHEEP! SHEEP! – The Ottawa Golf Club owns between 75 and 100 acres of grazing land on the Chelsea Road in Hull and would allow a responsible person to pasture sheep there at a nominal rental, if satisfactory security were given that enough sheep would be put on the land to keep the grass cropped short at all times. (Ottawa Journal, 16 January 1901, p. 8)


Fuller’s work as caretaker was greatly appreciated by the club. At the annual meeting at the beginning of 1902, “It was decided to retain the services of … Caretaker J. Fuller. A purse of money was presented to Mr. Fuller by the members” (Ottawa Journal, 17 January 1902, p. 10). And when the Ottawa Golf Club moved to its Aylmer Road property in the spring of 1904, it decided to build “a caretaker’s lodge” for Fuller (Ottawa Journal, 10 September 1904, p. 15).


Fuller remained caretaker until at least the end of 1904, when he apprehended an armed robber who broke into the clubhouse:


Broke Into Club House


Man With Revolver Found In Ladies’ Room


Caretaker at Golf Links Makes Clever Capture…


A young man giving his name as Joseph Martin was caught in the ladies’ dressing room at the Ottawa Golf Club House about one o’clock this morning, and when taken pretended to be asleep.


He had on him a loaded revolver, a box of cartridges, three razors and a large knife, but no money. He had not taken anything from the premises. Mr. John M. Fuller, caretaker, made the capture ….


Martin gained admittance to the golf house by cutting a piece of glass out of the frame and opening the catch which held the window shut. It was the sound of his knife cutting the sash and the putty, followed by the breaking of the pane on the platform outside the window, that attracted the attention of Mr. John M. Fuller, caretaker, and Mr. Thacker, who was there at the time. On coming down to that part of the house, Mr. Fuller entered the room into which the prisoner had broken and found him in a high-backed chair, with the revolver in his hand, resting on his knee. He passed behind the chair and turned on the light, after which he grasped the revolver, gaining possession of it, and then seized Martin. Mr. Thacker meantime phoned the Hull police …. (Ottawa Journal, 8 June 1904, p. 1)


Shortly afterwards, Fuller moved to Point Comfort, Quebec, but within a few years he returned to the Aylmer area where he farmed for about fourteen years before moving to the Westboro area of Ottawa. In 1923, he was appointed the superintendent of the Island Park Division of the Federal District Commission (the forerunner of today’s National Capital commission).


Sarah died in 1925; John, in 1933.


Living with the Fullers at the clubhouse on the Chelsea Road, and afterwards also living next door to them in both Aylmer and Westboro, was another couple: their daughter Elizabeth (one of their eleven children) and her husband William Devine – the man from North Berwick, Scotland, who had in 1899 succeeded Baizana as the golf professional of the Ottawa Golf Club, and the man who had in 1900 become the new caretaker’s son-in-law.


Although Fuller had no knowledge or experience of golf before his appointment as Ottawa Golf Club caretaker in 1899, and so is unlikely to have had anything to do with laying out the links of the Victoria Golf Club, Divine had arrived in Canada from one of the leading golf communities in Scotland, where he was a freelance golf professional on the famous West Links of North Berwick, which had just been lengthened and re-designed to the highest standards of the day – standards with which Divine would have become thoroughly familiar.


The promoters of the Victoria Golf Club would have been very fortunate to have availed themselves of Divine’s expertise as they brought their course into play in April of 1899.

William Allison Divine

Although giving his age to immigration authorities as twenty-five, when William Divine arrived at Quebec City from Glasgow on the S.S. Sarmatian on 13 May 1897, he was really twenty-six, having been born on 5 January 1871.

Figure 32 S.S. Sarmatian, circa 1890s.

The ship had left Glasgow on April 29th , “with two cabin, 50 intermediate and 44 steerage passengers,” and the crossing was relatively difficult: “The officers report that they experienced strong westerly and nor’westerly winds, with occasional gales and hail squalls throughout nearly the whole of the passage. Detained for about 30 hours by fog within a day’s sail of the Bank; but sighted little ice, and had a good run, with fine, clear weather in the Gulf” (Gazette [Montreal], 15 May 1897, p. 8)

Most importantly, they “Had no sickness or fatality during the voyage”: “The passengers, who belong to the better class of Scottish emigrants, were all in excellent health” (Gazette [Montreal], 15 May 1897, p. 8).


Whether Divine remained on the Sarmatian for the next stage of its voyage to Montreal on May 14th is not clear.


Upon arrival in the port at Quebec city, Divine was healthy, but maybe still in a bit of a personal fog, for when asked by the immigration officer what his destination was, he initially misunderstood the question and replied, “Quebec,” but when he realized he was being asked his ultimate destination within Canada, he replied, “Vancouver, B.C.”


It is not clear whether Divine actually went to Vancouver, nor when he arrived in Ottawa, let alone when he was hired by the Ottawa Golf Club. In fact, it is not clear that when he arrived in Canada he was interested in working as a golf professional at all, for when asked by the immigration officer what his “Profession, Occupation, or Calling” was, he said he was a “baker.”


Information about Divine’s tenure at the Ottawa Golf Club is incomplete and often inaccurate.


For instance, the Ottawa Journal reports in 1904 that the Ottawa Golf Club has hired a new golf professional: “John Oke, who succeeded W. Devine [sic]” (Ottawa Journal, 10 September 1904, p. 15). Since we learn in the same article that “W. Devine [sic] … held the position for three years after Ricketts left,” we would be justified in concluding that Divine served as the club’s golf professional from 1901 to 1903.


There are certainly references in golf publications and newspaper articles to Divine’s work as the golf professional at the club during these three years.


Towards the end of the 1903 golf season, for instance, the Ottawa Golf Club Secretary wrote to David Scott Duncan, editor of Britain’s Golfing Annual, to inform him that “Wm. Divine” was the club’s “Professional” (vol 17, 1903-04, p. 481). At the beginning of the 1903 season, we read in the Montreal Gazette that although Ottawa Golf Club members had begun play on the Chelsea Links in March – the earliest ever start for golf in Ottawa – “There will be no matches till William Divine has resumed his duties as professional for the club” (25 March 1903, p. 2). And we read a reference to his work in 1901 in a report about the annual meeting of the Ottawa Golf Club in January of 1902: “It was decided to retain the services of W. Devine, the professional” (Ottawa Journal, 17 January 1902, p. 10). Club member P.D. Ross recorded in his diary for 2 September 1901: “bought new mid-iron from Devine [sic] for $1.25” (cited in email from Paul Murray to the author, 18 July 2022).


But a similar decision to retain his services after the 1900 season must have been made at the annual meeting in January of 1901, for when Divine married Elizabeth Fuller in the summer of 1900, we learn that he had already been working at the Ottawa Golf Club for some time:


A Golfer Weds


Mr. William Divine, formerly of North Berwick, Scotland, a professional golfer, was married on Wednesday evening at the manse, Hintonburg, to Miss Elizabeth Fuller, formerly of Hintonburg. The ceremony was performed by Rev. Mr. Eadie. Afterwards dinner was served at the residence of the bride in Hull [that is, the clubhouse of the Ottawa Golf Club]. Mr. Divine is the professional who has been the instructor at the Chelsea links. (Ottawa Citizen, 24 August 1900, p. 8).


It is clear, then, that Divine was the golf professional at the Ottawa Golf Club for at least the four years from 1900 to 1903.


Yet the information that the Divine family provided to the Ottawa Journal for William Divine’s obituary in 1953 suggests that he had been appointed the golf professional at the Ottawa Golf Club even earlier:


Noted Golfer W.A. Divine Dies in Almonte Hospital


William Allison Divine, of Almonte, formerly of Ottawa, died suddenly in an Almonte hospital Sunday. He was 82 years [old].


Born and educated in North Berwick, Scotland, he …. married Elizabeth Fuller in Canada in 1900 ….


Mr. Divine came to Ottawa 54 years ago and was employed as a professional golf instructor by the Royal Ottawa Golf Club for many years…. (Ottawa Journal, 27 July 1953, p. 26)


According to the family, Divine had begun his tenure as the Ottawa Golf Club’s professional fifty-four years before his death in mid-1953: that is, in 1899. So, William Divine would seem to have been the golf professional of the Ottawa Golf Club for at least the five years from 1899 to 1903.


Divine had been born in 1871 on the High Street of North Berwick, one of the most famous golf communities in Scotland. He was the son of Helen Robertson and William Divine, a master baker whose bakery had been established in 1862. On either side of the Divine home on the High Street of North Berwick were the shops of golf professionals who made golf balls or golf clubs, or both.


After his formal education in the town’s public school, young Willie Divine worked for his father in the family bakery. We recall that he had informed authorities when he arrived at Quebec City that he was a baker. But when he was a schoolboy, he had worked in the summers and during school holidays as a caddie on North Berwick’s West Links, located on the Firth of Forth.


As such, he would have known well two of the fathers of penal golf course design discussed above. On the one hand, Tom Dunn, was the golf professional who served as greenkeeper and clubmaker at North Berwick from 1881 to 1889 when Willie was regularly caddying. On the other hand, Willie Dunn, Jr, was apprenticed here to his older brother Tom during the early 1880s, when Willie Divine started out as a caddie.

Figure 33 The wall built in front of the green on the 14th hole (called "Perfection") during the 1895 extension of the West Links of North Berwick. Photograph circa 1908.

So, the notorious walls and ruined buildings over which golfers had to play shots on the Chelsea Links of the Ottawa Golf Club will not have surprised Divine, for on the West Links of North Berwick (where play had begun on a rudimentary course in the seventeenth century) walls were placed across entire fairways.


And note that at North Berwick, such walls were not a quaint relic of an older time: during the lengthening of the golf course in 1895, a wall was placed directly in front of the fourteenth green (as seen in the photograph to the left).


Some of these old walls remain in place on the West Links of North Berwick today.

North Berwick caddies such as young Willie Divine became quite expert in all matters related to golf. We read of them during Divine’s time in North Berwick in the Golfer’s Guide for the United Kingdom: “The caddies are a first-class lot, and players will find them good guides as to distance and direction – also as to the amount by which gentlemen ought to show their appreciation of their service, which is certainly not small” (ed. W. Dalrymple [Edinburgh: W.H. White & Co., 1895], p. 202).


Caddies over fourteen years of age were designated first-class; those under fourteen, second-class. But through excellent service, the younger boys might achieve first-class standing even before their fourteenth birthday. As there was a significant difference between the amount paid to the first-class and second-class caddies, there was a strong incentive to strive for promotion.


The best of the North Berwick caddies might become golf professionals, and this is what William Divine did.


He was an athletic young man and enjoyed competition. At the “annual Highland sports at North Berwick,” in the 120-yard race “confined to members of local athletic clubs,” “W. Divine” finished second in 1890 (Glasgow Herald, 25 August 1890, p. 10). And he loved golf (he would play the game into his eighty-second year). So, although he had trained as a baker in apprenticeship to his father (who was a “master baker”), he decided not to work in his father’s store, but rather to become a golf professional (at least two of his younger cousins would follow him into this profession over the next decade).


At North Berwick, there were four kinds of golf professional:


The professional hierarchy could be divided into … sections: the keeper of the green; the professional club-maker; the professional player who would eke out a living in the club-makers' shop and play during the season in foursomes with amateurs; the professional caddie who would be a professional player if he played well enough.


The keeper of the green was engaged by North Berwick and Tantallon Golf Clubs with an annual salary to look after the ground, supervise a number of men to roll, sweep and mow the greens and fill up iron-divot marks. He collected the visitors’ green fees and was available to play the links at a set fee whether with skilled players or in the instruction of the game. He was supplied with a building or outhouse for a club-makers' shop where he would employ several men and work himself at spare times.


He organised the “professional players” to play with members, their guests and visitors or carry their bags. In 1894, a first-class caddie received 1/7d [one shilling and seven pence] and a second-class caddie received 1/1d, with a penny being retained for club funds. A professional was paid 3/6d a round while a teaching professional got 2/6d per hour. At the beginning of the twentieth century there were ten licensed golf professionals working on the West Links at North Berwick. Six were engaged in giving lessons while the remainder were available to play with the members and visitors. Many visiting families would hire the pro for several days during their holiday….


The Green Committee which approved the licenses was made up from representatives of the four golf clubs playing the West Links. The license was in fact a metal badge with a number attached to identify the individual who was sanctioned to act as a professional or caddie and to charge the appropriate fee. If the professional had no engagements he was allowed to work as a caddie. Although the Greens Committee had the final decision, it was the Starter who was the power behind the throne. He had the authority to recommend that an individual be awarded a license as a caddie or professional. He also had the ability to remove the license from anyone displaying bad behaviour. (from the website, “A History of Golf at North Berwick,”


By 1891, William Divine had been licensed by the Greens Committee as one of the ten freelance golf professionals who could engage to teach golfers or to play with golfers.


I have found no photographs of William Divine. But there are many 1890s photographs of groups of North Berwick golf professionals and caddies amongst whom he might be present.

Figure 34 Standing left is greenkeeper Tom Anderson; standing right is starter James Crawford; seated left to right: Willie Parker, club-maker James Hay Hutchison, caddie master George Thomson. Apprentices unidentified.

Some of the most important golf professionals at North Berwick in 1894 appear in the photograph to the left, taken in front of the clubmaking shop of golf professional James Hay Hutchison (1833-1912), who trained more than thirty apprentices over the years after setting up shop in North Berwick in 1889.


We see the keeper of the green standing on the left, the starter standing on the right, master clubmaker Hutchison seated in the middle wearing an apron, and the caddie master seated to his right. His seven assistant golf professionals, toiling as apprentice clubmakers, stand in the back row, all wearing aprons. It is possible that William Divine is among them.

As a matter of fact, however, many of the freelance golf professionals of North Berwick worked in the ball-making and club-making shop of Ben Sayers – the best tournament player among the North Berwick professionals (with twenty-four victories during his career). In the photograph below, we see Sayers striking a tee shot at North Berwick in the early 1890s, surrounded by caddies and other North Berwick professionals. Again, it is possible that young Willie Divine is among them.

Figure 35 Ben Sayers drives the ball at North Berwick circa 1890, surrounded by caddies and golf professionals.

In the spring of 1897, with hundreds of young golf professionals like the ones above seeking jobs at clubs within the British Isles, Divine (like many fellow Scottish golf professionals, including two younger cousins) decided to emigrate to North America, where the game of golf was booming.


Whenever Divine was engaged by the Ottawa Golf Club, it is likely that he soon recommended improvements to the Chelsea Links. The golf course was regarded in the late 1890s as already having “a very sporting character,” but there was also an awareness – perhaps originating with Divine’s assessment of the course – that the layout did not realize the property’s full potential for golf (Gazette [Montreal], 26 November 1898, p. 2). “The links … have great natural possibilities,” we read, but we also learn that there was an impediment to any proposals for fully realizing these possibilities: “The proprietor’s objection to selling or granting a long lease has up to this time prevented the club from making many changes by way of improvement” (Gazette [Montreal], 26 November 1898, p. 2).


So, an opportunity in late 1898 or early 1899 for Divine to design a golf course for the new Victoria Golf Club on its hilly lakeside property (which was crossed in every direction by roads, railways, and creeks) might have been just what the doctor ordered for a golf professional frustrated by the ownership situation that blocked substantial improvements to the Chelsea Links.


Late in 1901, the Ottawa Golf Club was offered the option of purchasing the land in question and incorporated as the Ottawa Golf Club in order to do so. Thereafter, Divine was no doubt instrumental in the programme of improvements undertaken on the Chelsea Links in 1902. And when the club sold its Chelsea Links to the International Portland Cement Company at the end of 1902 and then struck a committee to consider four different sites as a possible location for a new eighteen-hole championship course, it is likely that Divine was asked for advice as to which site would be most suitable for such a layout. And during his last full year with the club in 1903, since Tom Bendelow did not supervise construction of the eighteen-hole course he laid out on the Aylmer Road site in the spring of 1903, it is likely that Divine’s expertise was deployed in this regard.


Even after Divine was replaced by Oke in the spring of 1904, it is possible that he remained at the Ottawa Golf Club in a greenkeeping capacity. After all, as far as some members of the Ottawa Golf Club were concerned, that is all that William Divine had ever been: a glorified ground man.


That is, although Divine instructed Ottawa Golf Club members in the art of the golf swing during his five years at the club, his own golf game seems not to have been regarded as befitting that of the golf professional of the Ottawa Golf Club. Divine’s golf abilities were never mentioned in the Ottawa newspapers, except implicitly in the comments about the much better golf game of his successor:


Golf Club’s Latest Move


Importing Great English Professional


John Oke of Richmond Engaged to Coach Local Golfers. Has Splendid Record.


For the first time since its organization the Ottawa Golf Club is importing a professional from England. He is John Oke, of Richmond, who is one of England’s best known professional golfers, and who finished fifteenth in the last professionals’ championship matches in England…. He is a young man who has shown as a golfer rare ability for his years, and the members of the local club anticipate reaping material benefit from his services. (Ottawa Journal, 14 March 1904, p. 1).


Of course, this article is mistaken about the Ottawa Golf Club’s “imports.” Alfred Ricketts had been imported from England in 1893.


And although Divine was from Scotland, rather than England, he was also an “import.”


But even this article’s mistakes and omissions regarding the Ottawa Golf Club’s previous golf professionals nonetheless serve its main purpose: to declare that no previous Ottawa Golf Club professional was comparable with John Oke.


Perhaps the writer in question was insultingly silent about Divine’s service at the Ottawa Golf Club because his information had come from one of the club members who did not regard Divine as the kind of golf professional the club needed and deserved. An article published around the same time in the Montreal Star would seem to have as its source some such club member who thought neither Divine nor Baizana was a “real” golf professional: “Since the inception of the club, when Alf. Ricketts was professional, the club has had no professional, but has been satisfied with a ground man” (19 April 1904, p. 2). According to the Montreal writer’s Ottawa source, Divine and Baizana were merely ground men.


We learn later in 1904 that there had indeed been dissatisfaction expressed within the Ottawa Golf Club about Divine’s suitability as the club’s golf professional, especially as the club was about to open a new championship golf course and a new palatial clubhouse: “the club this year came to the conclusion that a first-class professional was necessary,” so it hired “John Oke, who succeeded W. Devine” (Ottawa Journal, 10 September 1904, p. 15). It is clear that according to some Ottawa Golf Club members, Divine was just not “a first-class professional.”


So, how is it, one wonders, that a man who was apparently so ambivalent about his prospects as a golf professional when he arrived in Canada in May of 1897 that he identified himself as a baker on his way to Vancouver ended up shortly thereafter as a golf professional at the Chelsea Links of the Ottawa Golf Club?


Instead of going on to Vancouver in 1897, had Divine come to Ottawa, and if he had, did he somehow find work with his future father-in-law in the latter’s parcel delivery business?


If so, Fuller would as a matter of course have learned of Divine’s former work as a golf professional in North Berwick. Did they come up with the idea of presenting themselves to the Ottawa Golf Club as a dynamic duo who could more than replace the man who had left the club to become a driver with the Ottawa Electric Railway?


Divine had certainly become close to the Fuller family. We read that in the fall of 1900, just a few weeks after his marriage to Elizabeth Fuller, “Mr. William Divine and Master George Fuller [Divine’s eleven-year-old brother-in-law] … sail on Sunday by the [S.S.] Lake Champlain for England” (Ottawa Citizen, 23 November 1900, p. 1). Perhaps he had known the Fullers for some time.


I suspect that Divine came to know them all very well at dawn on Monday, 2 October 1899, for that is when the entire Fuller family nearly perished when the old Brigham Homestead which served as the clubhouse of the Ottawa Golf Club caught fire.


The day before, in the wake of its successful hosting of the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s annual championship matches at the end of September, the Ottawa Golf Club had staged its biggest entertainment of the year:


the much-looked-forward-to tea, given by Colonel Irwin, president of the Ottawa Golf Club, and Mrs. Irwin, notwithstanding the threatening aspect of the weather, took place with much éclat at the links, … more than two hundred guests being present…. In a large marquee erected on the lawn, refreshments of the most choice and substantial kind were served, while delightful music was discoursed by a band stationed near at hand. (Ottawa Citizen, 2 October 1899, p. 5)


In light of the fact that a fire broke out several hours after the last guests finally left, it is interesting to read that “In the cheerful front room of the club house, a bright log fire added to the cheery welcome accorded all” (Ottawa Citizen, 2 October 1899, p. 5). One wonders if the fireplaces were taxed to their limit during the club’s grand entertainment.


What happened next was described in newspapers across Canada:


Had Narrow Escape


Caretaker Fuller and Family Almost Suffocated in Fire at Golf Clubhouse


At 5:10 this morning, fire was discovered in the Ottawa Golf Club’s headquarters, situated in the old Brigham homestead on the Chelsea Road. An alarm was sent in … and the Hull brigade responded, but as the club house is situated about two miles from the center of the city, no adequate water supply could be obtained and only a bucket brigade was set at work. Before it was under control the fire had caused about $150 damage to the walls and mantle piece in the ladies’ quarters. The fire is supposed to have originated from a defective flue. Caretaker Fuller and his family, who were sleeping in the house at the time, had a narrow escape from suffocation, Mr. Fuller only being awakened by the reflection of the fire after the rooms were filled with dense smoke. (Ottawa Citizen, 2 October 1899, p. 1).


I see Willie standing next to Elizabeth in the bucket brigade, each reaching the conclusion that they worked well together.


After William Divine left the Ottawa Golf Club, he and Elizabeth lived in Aylmer, and had two daughters. The 1911 Canadian census records that he was a “Laborer” working “In garden.” The 1921 census, however, records that he has become an “employé civil.”


During the family’s long residence in Aylmer, Divine joined the new Chaudière Golf Club, which opened in July of 1923. Even though he may not have played golf since being replaced by Oke at the Ottawa Golf Club in 1904, Divine soon became one of the few golfers at the new club who could complete the George Cummings course with a score in the 70s. (Laid out in the spring of 1923, the full eighteen holes were completed only in the summer of 1926.).


Divine frequently entered various club competitions, including the club championship of 1925 in which he reached the semi-finals at fifty-four years of age:


Eddie Taylor won his way into the championship final by defeating W. Devine [sic] on the 19th hole. W. Devine played a strong game and was three up at the finish of the first nine holes. Taylor’s game improved, however, and he was able to square the match at the 18th hole, after Devine had missed two approach shots. (Ottawa Citizen, 11 September 1925, p. 12)


The next year, Divine represented the club against competitors from Royal Ottawa, Rivermead, the Hunt Club, Fairmont, Larrimac, Kingston, and Perth (as well as golfers from New York and Michigan) in the “Class A” division of the Centenary Golf Tournament held to celebrate Ottawa’s centenary. He did well, “W. Devine [sic], Chaudière, and a clubmate, W.L. MacMahon, tying for the best net score for seniors” (Ottawa Citizen, 19 August 1926, p. 10). Furthermore, it turns out that “Mr. Divine was … the first member to make a hole-in-one at the Chaudière Club” (Ottawa Journal, 27 July 1953, p. 26).


After 20 years in Aylmer, the Divines moved to Ottawa’s Westboro area, living on Java Street. Divine now joined the McKellar Golf Club. And he returned to his Scottish family’s roots: he opened his own bakery on Wellington Street. Divine concluded his working life not as a baker, however, but as an employee of the Canadian Bank Note Company. Retiring in 1945, he moved with Elizabeth to Almonte, where they lived with their daughter and son-in-law.


William Divine “died suddenly” in the Almonte hospital in July of 1953 (Ottawa Journal, 27 July 1953, p. 26).

Figure 36 Pinecrest Cemetery, Ottawa, Ontario

The Almonte Gazette notes that “He always retained a keen interest in golf and played regularly up to last year” – that is, William Allison Divine played golf until 1952, when he was in his eighty-second year (6 August 1953, p. 5).

Club Officers

Figure 37 Golfer's Guide Annual (Edinburgh, Riverside Press, 1899), p. 459.

Word of golf developments in Aylmer reached Britain. Although Aylmer is obviously in Quebec, the Victoria Golf Club was alphabetically first in the 1899 list of golf clubs in Ontario in the Golfer’s Guide Annual.


The officers of the club were determined to let the golf world know of its existence: news of its committee structure was communicated to the United States Golf Association.

That is, information about the Victoria Golf Club as sent to the offices of Golf (“an official bulletin of the United States Golf Association”), which announced in the “The Editor’s Note Book” section of its April issue of 1899 the full slate of officers and committee members elected to run the club:


VICTORIA GOLF CLUB, of Aylmer, Canada – President, F.W. Avery; vice-president, Col. C.E. Turner; secretary, James Straton; treasurer, R.M. Courtney; committee, George Burn, Wilson Southam, R. Conroy. (Golf, vol 4 no 4 [April 1899], pp 199, 242)


Saturday Night observed that “the permanent guests of the hotel hold the official positions in the club” (24 June 1899, p. 3). The club officers are the subjects of brief biographies in the sections that follow.

President F.W. Avery

Figure 38 F.W. Avery, Who's Who and Why, 1917-18 (Toronto: International Press, Limited, 1918), p. 1058.

Frederick Wells Avery (1851-1916) was born and raised in Troy, New York, where his father was engaged in a lumber business operating out of New York City.


Concluding his formal education in New York, Avery worked with his father in the city before moving to Ottawa in 1879 to work with one of the Ottawa Valley’s largest lumber companies. At just twenty-eight years of age, he was described as “a prominent lumberman of Troy, N.Y.” (Ottawa Daily Citizen, 15 March 1879, p. 3).


In due course, he became partner, director, and treasurer in a number of Ottawa lumber firms (White-Avery, Red Timber & Lumber, Hull Lumber, Arundel Lumber, and so on), becoming one of the most prominent of Ottawa’s lumbermen. In 1909, he would be elected vice-president of the Canadian Lumberman’s Association.

Over the course of his career, he visited the New York market frequently where he was well-connected through his father’s associates. But as the years passed, Avery increasingly made Ottawa his home:


He was seldom out of the city, devoting most of his attention to charities and philanthropic institutions of Ottawa.


Mr. Avery was noted for his many charities. He was president of the Perley Home for Incurables, Ottawa, and was a member of the Hospital Commission appointed by the Canadian Government to care for invalid soldiers sent home from the front. He was also an active worker for the Patriotic Fund of Ottawa, and much of the success of that organization, to which he was a genuine contributor, was due to his administration….


Mr. Avery was prominent in the social life of the city and was for two terms president of the Rideau Club, Ottawa. His other clubs were the Royal Ottawa Golf Club and the Country Club of Ottawa. (New York Lumber Trade Journal, vol 60 [15 May 1916], p. 36)


Avery’s first wife died in the early 1890s, and then he married a local Ottawa woman, Hanna Ottilie Graeme, with whom he started a second family. Hanna Avery also played golf, and in the fall of 1899 put on one of the weekly teas at the clubhouse of the Ottawa Golf Club (Ottawa Journal, 21 October 1899, p. 4). But whether she was an active golfing member of the Victoria Golf Club is not clear, for it was her habit to spend summers not in Aylmer, but rather on large bodies of water much further from Ottawa. In the summer of 1895, for instance, she took the children to the lakeshore in Cobourg, Ontario. By 1896, however, the Avery family had acquired a cottage at Cap [à] L’Aigle on Murray Bay, along the St. Lawrence River north-east of Quebec City, and she took the children there each summer from 1896 to 1899. Her husband sometimes accompanied his family on these summer holidays, and sometimes spent just a few weeks away from Ottawa.


In 1899, Hanna Avery and the children left for Murray Bay in the middle of June and did not return to Ottawa until mid-September. Her husband may have had more time available than usual for tending to matters concerning his new project: the Victoria Golf Club.


Avery, incidentally, was a close business associate of George H. Perley, member of the Ottawa Golf Club’s executive committee in 1899, and club president as of 1900. Avery and Perley, in fact, formed a partnership in 1899 to acquire the Ottawa Lumber Company. Perley might well have been in a position to help out his friend Avery with the loan of Baizana and/or Divine to lay out the Victoria Golf Club links.


Avery died unexpectedly after an operation in a Montreal hospital in 1916.

Vice-President Col C.E. Turner

Charles E. Turner was perhaps the most exotic member of the Victoria Golf Club’s executive committee: he was the United States Consul-General stationed at Ottawa.


Turner was born in Plainville, Connecticut, in 1862, but his parents moved into nearby Waterbury the next year. Turner studied at the Waterbury English and Classical School before entering his father’s business in 1877, becoming its sole proprietor on his father’s death in 1881 when Charles was still in his teens.


Upon Turner’s appointment to Ottawa, the Waterbury American noted: “Mr. Turner, like his father, has been a lifelong Republican and has taken an active and prominent part in Connecticut politics” (cited in the Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1 July 1897, p. 8). He served on the Republican State Central Committee. He was also paymaster in the state militia at the rank of lieutenant. He was then commissioned as a colonel to serve on the staff of Governor Cooke, the commander-in-chief of the Connecticut National Guard.

Figure 39 Colonel Charles E. Turner (1862-1907), United States Consul-General at Ottawa, 1897-1903. Photograph from William Harrison Taylor, Taylor’s Souvenir of the Capitol Hartford, Conn (Putnam, Conn.: William Harrison Taylor, 1897), p. 28.

President William McKinley recognized Turner’s service to Connecticut and its Republican party by appointing him the Consul-General at Ottawa in June of 1897.


The Waterbury American commented further on his appointment: “Mr. Turner is one of the most popular men in the state in the true sense of the term. He is widely known and as well liked. He is a pleasant affable gentleman who will do credit to the high position he is to occupy” (cited in Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1 July 1897, p. 8).


During the spring and summer of 1899, Turner was a full-time resident of the Hotel Victoria and no doubt availed himself of the golf course regularly. In fact, determined not to miss out on a summer at the hotel, he had reserved his rooms in May and took up residence there in mid-June (Ottawa Journal, 26 May 1899, p. 8; 14 June 1899, p. 7).

Col. Turner and his wife Kate (Seymour) Turner did not return to Ottawa until the last day of August, and so, in some ways, the Hotel Victoria became the de facto American consulate. In July, for instance, the Consul-General organized an Independence Day celebration at the hotel: “Today being ‘the glorious Fourth,’ Colonel and Mrs. Turner intend giving a musical entertainment at the Hotel Victoria. As there are so many American visitors there the little celebration of the American holiday will be most fitting, and it is being pleasantly anticipated by those invited” (Ottawa Journal, 4 July 1899, p. 8).


Officially or unofficially, it seems likely that the Independence Day festivities also included rounds of golf on the links for the consul and his friends, some of whom had come up from Connecticut for the occasion.


Colonel and Mrs. Turner were very active in the Ottawa community, not just hosting galas on Independence Day and other American holidays, but also supporting a wide range of local arts (such as theatrical performances), businesses, charities, and sports clubs.


The Montreal Star observed that the consul had “been a very generous patron of sport” in particular (16 June 1903, p. 16). Within months of his arrival in Ottawa, for instance, Col. Turner was attending social events at the Ottawa Golf Club, and he was elected vice-president of the Ottawa Hockey Club (Ottawa Daily Citizen, 16 October 1897, p. 5; 12 November 1897, p. 3). He also served as an officer of the city’s Metropolitan Lacrosse Club, he entered his own trotters in local horse races, he came out to the rugby matches when Ottawa played Hamilton, or Toronto, or Montreal, and he regularly served as a referee in city pool tournaments.


Not surprisingly, when Turner decided to resign his position as Consul-General in 1903, after six years in Ottawa, the Montreal Star observed that he had, “along with his accomplished wife, been extremely popular in Ottawa circles” (16 June 1903, p. 16).


And one of Kate Turner’s more celebrated “accomplishments,” it turns out, was that of fearless bearwrestler:


Mr. N.E. Cormier’s Peril


Bravery Of Mrs. (Col.) Turner Saved Him From Death


Attacked by One of the Bears in His Menagerie, Mrs. Turner Fearlessly Dashed to His Rescue – His Condition Critical


But for the coolness and courage of Mrs. Col. Turner, Mr. N.E. Cormier, game-warden of Quebec, would have lost his life yesterday afternoon. He was attacked by a bear in his private menagerie at Aylmer and only prompt action on Mrs. Turner’s part saved him from death. Col. and Mrs. Turner were viewing Mr. Cormier’s wild animals and had seen all but a big bear, which was old and ugly [i.e. and-tempered]. Mr. Cormier fed a younger one, meanwhile discoursing on the quadruped’s habits. As he went near the older bear, Col. Turner remarked, “That bear is getting too ugly. You had better be careful.” Just as he uttered these words, the bear made a lunge at Mr. Cormier and caught him in the neck with his teeth. With lightning strokes, the bear struck at Mr. Cormier with his razor-edged claws and in two or three seconds had gashed his neck and lacerated his head, shoulder and hand. Without a moment’s hesitation, Mrs. Turner dashed at the bear and, sinking her hands in its heavy fur, pulled him back. It was an act requiring more than a little pluck, in view of the bear’s savage attack on Mr. Cormier. Col. Turner also leaped on the animal and called out its name “Pete” at the top of his voice. The bear’s attention was diverted for a moment but that was sufficient to give the colonel a chance to pull Mr. Cormier outside the circle of danger. A small boy who was present, Archie Belanger, did his best to help to distract the attention of the bear and struck the latter on the nose with an apple. The events described did not occupy more than ten seconds, the bear and Col. And Mrs. Turner moving with remarkable despatch. They were behind the bear when it clawed Mr. Cormier and were able to get out of its reach once they had effected their purpose and rescued the warden.


Col. Turner carried the wounded man into the house, while Mrs. Turner drove away for a doctor. The flow of blood from the wounds was very copious but Col. Turner with deft hands stanched the streams with towels and cloths till Dr. Quirk, Dr. Church and Dr. Hudson arrived.


Before they came, however, Mr. Cormier had lost much blood and he was very week. Fifty stiches were required to sew up the numerous gashes. It was found that the bear’s teeth had ripped within a fiftieth of an inch of the jugular vein. Mr. Cormier’s condition is very serious though it is expected he will recover unless blood-poisoning sets in.


The bear was immediately shot. It had been some time in Mr. Cormier’s possession and though a sullen beast had never before attempted to attack him. It was kept chained to a heavy post in the yard, but Mr. Cormier ventured within range of its claws to feed it, with the result described.


The courage of Col. And Mrs. Turner can hardly be fairly depicted in words. They forgot danger to themselves in their anxiety to save Mr. Cormier and their escape from injury is reason for congratulation.


Colonel Turner would not talk about what he and his wife had done, but several gentlemen, who learned of their heroic conduct, spoke in the warmest terms of admiration of the coolness of Mr. Cormier’s preservers. The incident was the theme of the hour in Aylmer last night and everyone was praising Mrs. Turner. (Ottawa Citizen, 3 November 1902, p. 10)


This sensational story was told across North America by newspapers like the Halifax Herald, the Boston Globe, and the New York Times.


Poor Cormier was never the same after sustaining such traumatic injuries.


Yet poor Pete may have a greater share of the sympathies of a reader of this story today. A gun shot delivered him from a horrific existence.


But who cannot cheer for Kate Turner?


Mind you, the story had an interesting denouement:


As A Souvenir


The skin and head of the big pet bear which recently attacked Mr. N.E. Cormier at Aylmer has been sent to Mrs. (Col.) Turner as a souvenir of her brave actions in helping in the rescue of Mr. Cormier.


She will have the skin dressed and the head mounted. (Ottawa Journal, 13 November 1902, p. 9)


Oh dear …. and we had so much wanted to cheer for Kate Turner unreservedly

Figure 40 Kate Turner (nee Seymour) in the Sunday Herald (Waterbury, Connecticut), February 1890.

Shortly after her arrival in Ottawa, Kate Turner joined the Ottawa Golf Club. And it was not just a social membership that she took out: she participated in the women’s competitions of the Ottawa Ladies’ Golf Club from the moment she joined.


Based on what we have learned of her above, one imagines that she was a fierce competitor.


And one presumes that although she was certainly a member of the reception committee for the inaugural dance of the Victoria Golf Club, she was again probably more than just a social member of the club.

Colonel Turner’s tussle with a bear was par for the course in terms of stories about his time as Consul-General in Ottawa. He was known as a great hunter who knew his way around wild animals; he was regularly reported in the newspapers as spending time at hunting lodges in northern Ontario and Quebec. 

It was the enormous moose that he had shot, for instance, that was displayed in the Canadian pavilion of the Pan-American Exposition held in Buffalo in 1901: “There is a splendid moose head with antlers spreading, loaned by Col. Charles E. Turner, U.S. Consul-General at Ottawa, who shot it 50 miles north of the Dominion capital. It is said to be the most perfect specimen in existence” (St. Catherines Standard, 3 July 1901, p. 4).

To the disappointment of the elite members of Ottawa society, Turner resigned as Consul General in 1903. Surprised by Turner’s decision, the Ottawa Citizen paid the Turners a high compliment: “It would serve to alleviate the sorrow with which the fact of his resignation will be learned in the Capital should the sequel prove that Colonel and Mrs. Turner have become so completely identified with local interests that they will make their future home in the Washington of the North” (16 June 1903, p. 4)


Turner left Ottawa, but he did not leave Canada.


While consul in Ottawa, he had become involved in mining companies, serving, for instance, on the Board of Directors of Ottawa’s Calumet Mining Company in 1902. This experience spurred his own interest in prospecting, leading in the fall of 1906 to his staking out in the Cobalt area of Ontario what proved to be very lucrative claims.


While in Toronto in the spring of 1907, however, during an interlude in his prospecting activities, he came down with pneumonia. He tried to suffer through the illness at the hotel in which he and his wife were staying, but “A couple of days later he was removed to the hospital in a critical condition” (Ottawa Citizen, 9 May 1907, p. 3). A week later, he was dead.

Secretary James Straton

James Straton had not been in Ottawa long when he heard talk of a golf course to be built in Aylmer. A lawyer based in New Brunswick, he had visited Ottawa frequently in connection with seventeen cases that he argued before the Supreme Court of Canada, but he moved to Ottawa in the mid-1890s where he worked as a barrister and parliamentary agent.

Figure 41 James Straton (1854-1912), Isaac Allen Jack, History of St. Andrews Society of St. John, N.B., Canada, 1798 to 1903 (St. John, New Brunswick: J & A McMillan, 1903), p. 142 a.

Straton was as Scottish as one can be, his family on both his mothers’ side and his father’s side tracing lines back to a time before the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314.


Like his father, James Straton became a lawyer.


Born in 1854, he attended school in Edinburgh and then studied law at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in the late 1860s and articling with an Edinburgh firm until immigrating with parents and siblings to St. John, New Brunswick, in 1873 and working there as a student-at-law until admitted as an attorney in 1881.


He also built a railroad in New Brunswick, which he leased to the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, and he became a director of another railway company in Ottawa.

As Secretary of the Victoria Golf Club, Straton was probably the member of the executive committee who was charged with the most responsibilities in connection with the running of the club and the maintenance of the golf course. It was said of him by fellow lawyers that “By his estimable character and winning disposition he drew to himself the friendship and admiration of all who came into personal relationship with him” – qualities that would have served him well as the secretary of a golf club (Saskatoon Daily Star, 12 September 1912, p. 3).


Straton moved to Saskatoon in 1905 where he formed a business with his brother and then formed a partnership in 1906 with two other important local lawyers. Upon the formation at this time of the Saskatoon Judicial District, Straton was appointed its first crown prosecutor and his fellow lawyers elected him president of Saskatoon Judicial District Bar Association.


As always, Straton also had business interests apart from his legal career: in Saskatoon, he invested successfully in local real estate.


In the fall of 1911, however, Straton returned to live in his first Canadian hometown: St. John. But he still travelled to Ottawa to argue cases before the Supreme Court of Canada, and he still travelled to the West, where he was interviewed just months before he passed away:


I may say that I am glad to see Saskatoon again, just as I am always glad to get back to St. John after I have been away. I have a little grandson there now, and that is a great attraction. My interests in Saskatoon require a little looking after once in a while, and 2,500 miles is a long way to travel, but after all it does not take long to make it. (Star-Phoenix [Saskatoon], 5 February 1912, p. 10)


At the end of August in 1912, just before setting out on another trip to Saskatoon, Straton underwent an unsuccessful operation for peritonitis: “it was owing to the fact that the operation had been delayed too long that death resulted” (Star-Phoenix [Saskatoon], 5 September 1912, p. 10).


Straton was sixty-five years of age.

Treasurer R. M. Courtney

Serving as the treasurer of the Victoria Golf Club, Reginald Mortimer Courtney (1871-1954) was the youngest member of the executive committee. With his passing in 1954, the last member of the original committee was dead.


The Ottawa Citizen’s obituary described him as “An outstanding figure of business, sporting and military circles in the Capital” (2 January 1954, p. 6).

Figure 42 R.M. Courtney, circa 1893.

The son of a man who served as Canada’s deputy minister of finance for twenty-eight years (J.M. Courtney), R.M. Courtney was born in Ottawa and attended the Waller Street Primary School (which would become Lisgar Collegiate). Upon graduation, he attended the Royal Military College at Kingston.


Graduating from RMC as a lieutenant, he worked briefly in the engineering department of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. He was employed locally in sounding the Ottawa River in preparation for the building of the Interprovincial Bridge.

He was then appointed to work on the survey of the boundary between Canada and Alaska, which had yet to be established. This area would become a bone of dispute between Canada and the United States when gold was discovered in the disputed area in 1897 (prompting the Klondike Gold Rush and the transport of copious amounts of gold that both the Canadian and American governments were eager to tax).


Late in 1897, Courtney opened an insurance business. This business – into which he took various partners over the years – would become his life-long passion.


But Courtney’s insurance work was delayed and interrupted by army service and a war. On the one hand, in 1897, “He was one of the officers representing Canada at Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee” (Ottawa Citizen, 2 January 1954, p. 6). On the other hand, in the early 1900s, his “military career started with the South African War [1899-1902], when he served with the Lord Strathcona Horse [in 1900]. He returned [to Canada in 1901] to organize and command ‘B’ Squadron of the Princess Louise Dragoon Guards, and later commanded the Second Cavalry Brigade” (Ottawa Citizen, 2 January 1954, p. 6).

Figure 43 Ottawa Citizen, 31 May 1902, p. 11.

The prospect of Canadians fighting on behalf of the British Empire in a far-off country had prompted large displays of patriotism in Ottawa. Soldiers from all over Canada regularly marched in front of the Parliament buildings before departing for South Africa, drawing tens of thousands of people into Ottawa from surrounding communities to attend these parades.


Courtney cut a gallant figure among these soldiers in Ottawa and was much admired for his military service during the South African War.

In the late 1890s, before he went to South Africa, he was a very active figure on the Ottawa sports scene. He served for many years on the executive committee of the Ottawa Amateur Athletic Club. He was passionate about many sports, including yachting, bowling, curling, and golf.

George Burn

It seems that in the late nineteenth century, every golf club included a banker on its executive committee, and so it was with the Victoria Golf Club: “No man in Ottawa was more closely connected with banking in the Capital than Sir George Burn” (Ottawa Journal, 5 December 1932, p. 1).


It was said of George Burn that over his banking career in Ottawa from 1880 to 1917, his “wise council, eagerly sought by heads of large corporations, by businessmen controlling large and small establishments, [and] by the thousands of customers who patronized the city’s own bank, was no small factor in the progress of the capital” (Ottawa Journal, 5 December 1932, p. 4).

Figure 44 George Burn (1847-1932), Ottawa Journal, 9 September 1896, p. 7.

He was born in 1847 in Thurso, Scotland, where he was educated and started his career with the Royal Bank of Scotland when he was just a teenager. Burn immigrated to Canada in 1866, gaining employment that year with the Royal Canadian Bank. He soon became inspector for the Exchange Bank in Montreal in the 1870s and then came to Ottawa in 1880 to be general manager of the Bank of Ottawa.


During World War I, Burn “was particularly active in all measures to assist the Allies’ great effort. He was one of the most active members of the central committee of the Patriotic Fund, was an untiring worker and helpful adviser in the executive of the Red Cross, and did splendid service in connection with the various war loan promotions” (Ottawa Journal, 5 December 1932, p. 4). In 1917, King George V made Burns a “Knight of the Grace Order of St. John of Jerusalem” (Ottawa Citizen, 5 December 1932, p. 2).

The Ottawa Citizen observed that “The services Sir George rendered his country will be remembered long. He was a fine type of Canadian and one of Ottawa’s best citizens”:


The list of organizations to which Sir George belonged, aiming at public welfare in various branches of endeavour, is a long one. Included are the Perley Home for Incurables; the Central Council of the St. John Ambulance Association; the Canadian branch of the Victorian Order of Nurses Central Executive (joint treasurer and vice-president); treasurer, Canadian Association for the Prevention of Tuberculosis; treasurer of the Canadian National Committee for Mental Hygiene. (5 December 1932, p. 2)


At the time of the formation of the Victoria Golf Club, Burn was not just the general manager of the Bank of Ottawa, but also president of the Ottawa District Bankers Association and vice-president of the Canadian Bankers Association.


Of course, he was also a member of the Ottawa Golf Club.

Wilson M. Southam

The Southam name needs no introduction to those familiar with the history of the Canadian newspaper industry.

Figure 45 Wilson Mills Southam, circa 1910.

Wilson Mills Southam (1868 – 1947) was born in London, Ontario, where his father William worked for the London Free Press. His father then bought his first newspaper, the Hamilton Spectator, where he eventually installed Wilson as business manager. William Southam would eventually acquire such newspapers as the Windsor Star, Winnipeg Tribune, Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald, and Ottawa Citizen. As of 1897, Wilson Southam became the managing director of the Ottawa Citizen. Wilson and his brother Harry Stevenson Southam (co-publisher of the Ottawa Citizen with Wilson) were both good golfers and active members of the Ottawa Golf Club. In the early 1900s, Harry played to a handicap of 4 and Wilson played to a handicap of 7. And they were stalwarts of the club’s competitions for men, playing regularly in intramural competitions as well as representing the club in matches against other golf clubs from Perth to Montreal. 


Wilson would win the Ottawa Golf Club’s Perley Cup in 1911.

Wilson Southam would become a very influential figure in Canadian politics over the next fifty years (frequently advising parliamentary committees on matters ranging from tax reform to industrial unrest) and a noted promoter to the leaders of the world’s democracies of Proportional Representation as a necessary electoral reform. He was also interested in Christian Science and published essays in The Christian Science Journal.


As an unmarried, thirty-year-old sports enthusiast at the beginning of 1899, Wilson was keen on the new game of golf and happy to devote time to committee work on behalf of the new Victoria Golf Club.


At the conclusion of the golf season, he married Henrietta Alberta Cargill, daughter of a Member of Parliament. More importantly, she had attended the opening “dance given by the president and members of the Victoria Golf club,” at which she was reported to have cut quite a figure: “Miss Cargill, in green mousseline de sole, is much admired” (Ottawa Citizen, 10 June 1899, p. 6).

R.H. Conroy

Robert Hughes Conroy (1847-1905) was one of the three sons of Robert Conroy, an Irish immigrant who became a major figure in Ottawa’s lumber trade and who also established the British Hotel in Aylmer (originally known as the Conroy Hotel).


Robert became a barrister and Mayor of South Hull from 1892 until his death in 1905. But he also became a lumber merchant and a businessman with many interests in the Aylmer area, including various properties that he owned. Along with his brother William, for example, he was a promoter of the Hull Electric Company that ran its railway up to Aylmer, the Hotel Victoria, and Victoria Park.

Figure 46 Robert H. Conroy (right) and William J. Conroy on one of the farms that they owned in the Aylmer area. Circa 1900.

The Conroy family was much admired in Aylmer in the late 1800s and early 1900s.


Along with his brother and father, Conroy was described as “large hearted” and “progressive,” “of a splendid type” who “created and distributed wealth”: “Forty years ago the name Conroy was one to conjure with in and about Aylmer. Those who knew Aylmer at that time will endorse this statement, that the Conroy family gave freely of their time and money for the good of the Ottawa Valley and Aylmer in particular” (Ottawa Journal, 18 December 1915, p. 24).


Conroy’s principal residence was on Main Street in Aylmer, but he also built a summer home at the north-western end of the Victoria Golf Club links, right next to Vitoria Park.


He was also a member of the Ottawa Golf Club. In the year that he died, he was accorded a handicap of 36 (which in those days was a stroke allowance calculated in relation to the average score of the best player in the club).

The "Golf Ball"

The opening social event of the Victoria Golf Club’s season occurred in June of 1899: it was aptly called “the Golf Ball” (Montreal Herald, 13 June 1899, p. 4).


Secretary Straton seems to have leaked first word of the club’s plans to the Ottawa Journal: “A dance is to be given at the Hotel Victoria, Aylmer, on the 9th of June, by the Aylmer Golf Club, which has just come into existence this year, but which bids fair to be a very flourishing institution. Mr. Straton is the secretary of the club” (29 May 1899, p. 8).


The ball may have been Straton’s pet project, for although “Mr. Straton, the secretary of the club, was called on business to England,” he worked as long as he could on the preparations for the event and only “left the morning of the ball” (Montreal Herald, 13 June 1899, p. 4).


Formal announcements of the dance appeared in the English-language Ottawa newspapers, the copy in each newspaper virtually identical, suggesting that the announcement was written by the club secretary:


Invitations have been sent out by the president and members of the Victoria Golf Club to a dance to be given at the Victoria Hotel, Aylmer, on Friday evening, June 9 th, at 9 o’clock.


The reception committee consists of the following ladies: Mrs. Avery, Mrs. Turner, Mrs. Straton, Mrs. Nelson, Mrs. Burn, Mrs. Courtney, Madame Lavergne, Mrs. W.A. Allan, Mrs. Shirley Ogilvie, Mrs. W.H. Rowley. (Ottawa Journal, 6 June 1899, p. 3)


Note regarding the list of women who constituted the reception committee that the old-fashioned convention of referring publicly to a married women via her husband’s full name allows us to infer the identity of members of the Victoria Golf Club in addition to those we have met in connection with the executive committee.


Apart from bachelor Southam, the directors of the Victoria Golf Club were married, and each of their wives served on the reception committee. The other women on the reception committee were almost certainly also married to members of the Victoria Golf Club, and nearly every one of the husbands mentioned was also a member of the Ottawa Golf Club. 


Ottawa society reporter Ella Walton wrote an account of the evening’s festivities for the Montreal Herald:




Ottawa, June 10 – (Special) – Golf and a golf ball at Aylmer is a combined form of amusement in which people of varied tastes can take pleasure. The game, the dancing, the music, the supper, the ride out, the cool, fresh crispness of the summer night, each and all have their devotees and admirers. The golf players who make Aylmer their homes during the summer months find the links near Ottawa on the Chelsea Road too far. A new club has, therefore, been organized called the Victoria Golf Club. Mr. Avery is president and Mr. Straton secretary. All of the conditions are there for making this one of the most perfect golf grounds in Canada. A beautiful cool ride from Ottawa of twenty-five minutes in the electric cars, that stop at the bottom of the lawn of the Hotel Victoria, where the commodious club room is situated, [and] the links reaching from the grounds of the hotel away up the shores of Lake Deschênes are some of the attractions.


Play was commenced last week, and the club was opened with a grand ball at the Hotel Victoria on Friday night, given by the president and members. That is, the invitations were sent by the club; but every arrangement and detail was a compliment from Mr. F.X. St. Jacques, of the Russell House, Ottawa, who takes a great interest in the game. That his kindness was fully appreciated was shown by the fact that about five hundred went and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. The large dining room makes a splendid dancing hall. The decorations, personally supervised by Mr. St. Jacques, were very effective. The Union Jack and Stars and Stripes, festooned and draped, hung from the background of light-coloured walls. The large sideboard at the end of the room was covered with ferns and roses. Screened by awnings, a buffet with refreshments was spread at one end of the very wide verandah that opened from the dining room. At midnight an elaborate supper was served in the ladies’ ordinary at long tables decorated with quantities of white roses and white carnations. The cool breezes that ever play over the lake came through the great, wide windows, and were so refreshing that the dancing was kept up continuously. Special cars left Aylmer at half-past one, and conveyed the guests to their homes….


After the ball is over,” the scene is not always one of satisfaction. Looking from the windows the next morning over the rippling waters of Lake Deschênes, with the low monotone of its ceaseless music, forgotten are the strains of the orchestra, and the noise of the dancing feet upon the polished floor seem but the vague fancy of a dream that came in the night. Looking down from the tower of the Hotel Victoria, the village of Aylmer, with its scattered, low cottages, is peaceful and quiet.

Figure 47 The view over Aylmer that Walton describes from the top of the Hotel Victoria tower. From a postcard circa 1903.

Over the waters, the white sails flash, and dark, restless wings lightly touch the sun-kissed waves. Memory only is left as a reminder of the ball of the Victoria Golf Club. (13 June 1899, p. 4)


Yes, a memory of the Victoria Golf Club and its great inaugural ball seems to be all that remains.


Yet it was at this gala that Wilson Mills Southam seems to have first caught a glimpse of “Miss Cargill, in green mousseline de sole,” and immediately became the foremost among those by whom she was “much admired” (Ottawa Citizen, 10 June 1899, p. 6).


An early Beatles’ song perhaps channels Southam’s “Golf Ball” experience of seeing Miss Cargill: 


Well, my heart went "boom"

When I crossed that room

And I held her hand in mine.


Oh, we danced through the night,

And we held each other tight,

And before too long,

I fell in love with her.

Now I'll never dance with another –

Ooh, since I saw her standing there.


But for the “Golf Ball,” there might have been no marriage between Wilson Southam and Henrietta Cargill, and therefore no Gordon Hamilton Southam, the couple’s last child (born in 1916), who was responsible for the creation of Ottawa’s National Arts Centre.


And so, although Walton says that “Memory only is left as a reminder of the ball of the Victoria Golf Club,” it may be more accurate to say that the NAC is a perpetual reminder of the short-lived Victoria Golf Club and its ball (Montreal Herald, 13 June 1899, p. 4).

Golf Dinners

Regarded by many as “the most luxurious summer hotel in Canada,” the Hotel Victoria was patronized weekly by regular visitors from Ottawa. Long before the “Golf Ball” was announced, Secretary Straton seems to have let it be known that dinners and dances would be a regular feature of the Victoria Golf Club’s activities: “As parties are in the habit of going out there every week for delightful little suppers and dances, the golfers and their friends will often arrange their dances to take place after their play” (Herald [Montreal], 1 April 1899, p. 14).

Figure 48 C. Berkeley Powell, MPP (Ottawa).

The grand opening “Golf Ball” had been held on 9 June 1899. Two weeks later, we read that “In the last couple of weeks, society’s favorite pastime has been going out in parties to the Victoria and, after a game of golf, having dinner at the hotel” (Saturday Night, 24 June 1899, p. 3).


Politicians were particularly fond of arranging these golf dinners: “A very pleasant dinner, preceded by golf, was given at the Victoria las Thursday evening by Mr. C. Berkeley Powell, M.P.P. [Ottawa]” (Saturday Night, 24 June 1899, p. 3). Around the same time, “there was another jolly golf dinner at Hotel Victoria, which signifies a dinner preceded by a game of golf. The host was Mr. Macpherson, M.P., of Hamilton” (Montreal Star, 22 June 1899, p. 9).

Figure 49 Thomas Henry MacPherson, MP (Hamilton).

Thomas Henry Macpherson (1842-1903) was the Member of Parliament for Hamilton from 1896 to 1900. A partner in various wholesale grocery firms in Hamilton before becoming head of his own firm, Macpherson had been born in Perth, Scotland, and immigrated to Canada in 1871 after receiving his early business training on the stock exchange in London, England.


He was a founding member of the Hamilton Golf Club in the fall of 1894 and played in the opening match at the end of October that year: “There was a large and fashionable turnout, and over a hundred spectators followed the players, watching with interest the subtle play” (Toronto Daily Star, 26 October 1894, p. 2).

Macpherson and Powell were presumably among of the thirty-five founding members of the Victoria Golf Club.

From the 1890s onward, Members of Parliament sent to Ottawa from across Canada would be among the most regular out-of-town visitors to Ottawa golf clubs like the Victoria Golf Club and the Ottawa Golf Club.


We can infer from the language of one of the newspaper reports above – “there was another jolly golf dinner at Hotel Victoria” (emphasis added) – that the routine of “dinner preceded by a game of golf” had become a well-established feature of the Victoria Golf Club’s activities during the 1899 golf season.

Golf to 1902

After the regular reporting of golf events at the Hotel Victoria in 1899 (the year of the founding of the Victoria Golf Club), I find no more references to golf at the hotel until 1902: “The Hotel Victoria, which has been entirely renovated since last summer, was opened for the season last week…. The attractions of the hotel are golf links, lawn tennis, a bowling alley, billiard room, swimming baths, boating, etc.” (Ottawa Citizen, 14 June 1902, p. 8)


It is not clear from this report, however, whether the Victoria Golf Club still exists at this point. But the golf links certainly do.


The Hotel Victoria seems to have acquired the golf course and to have made it just as much available to its guests as its other recreational facilities. Its acquisition of the golf course is not surprising. On the one hand, it was said that hotel owner “Mr. F.X. St. Jacques … takes a great interest in the game (Herald [Montreal], 13 June 1899, p. 4). On the other hand, golf courses had by the late 1890s become a fixture at summer resorts throughout North America, so whatever hotel owners thought of the game, it was in their interests to cater to its enthusiasts.


St. Jacques was wise to take over the Victoria Golf Club’s links, for golf courses had appeared by the end of the nineteenth century at nearby summer resorts in direct competition with the Hotel Victoria.


Kingston’s Daily Whig reported in 1898 that “Golf is the coming game among the islands. Round Island has fine links” (11 July 1898, p. 2). The newspaper was referring to the golf course of the Frontenac Hotel on Round Island in the Thousand Islands region of the St. Lawrence River.

Figure 50 The Frontenac Hotel, as renovated in 1899, and the 2,423-yard nine-hole golf course built around it in 1898.

A year later, the same newspaper had news of another golf course, just a few miles further east in the Thousand Islands: “Golf is booming at Thousand Islands resorts. There are flourishing clubs at Alexandria Bay and Round Island Park” (Daily Whig, 2 August 1899). Similarly, in its news of sports in the “Thousand Islands” resorts during the summer of 1899, the Montreal Star reports that “Golf is resolving itself into perhaps the most popular athletic sport. It is probable that matches will be arranged between several clubs which have been organized throughout the islands” (5 August 1899, p. 8).

Figure 51 An early 1900s postcard view of the Algonquin Hotel on Stanley Island.

And at Cornwall, by the summer of 1900, the “Stanley Island Golf Cub” of the Algonquin Hotel (“The best, although not the largest, summer hotel in Canada, situated in the middle of Lake Francis and the St. Lawrence River”), where “The links are in excellent condition,” was sufficiently well-established – and it had members sufficiently confident – to host a match against the Cornwall Golf Cub (Montreal Star, 5 July 1900, p. 7; 7 July 1900, p. 9).

Figure 52 Montreal Star, 10 August 1900, p.4.

Closer to the Hotel Victoria, the Grand Hotel at Caledonia Springs (which was equidistant between Ottawa and Montreal, and easily reached by daily rail service from each city) had also laid out a golf course by 1900. Famous for the healing properties of its spring waters (which were bottled and marketed throughout North America and Europe), it immediately made its healthful facilities for golf a feature of its advertisements.

Further investments were made in the Caledonia Springs golf course such that the hotel asserted in 1901 that “The golf links have been steadily improved and may now be classed as among the best in Canada” (Daily British Whig, 31 August 1901, p. 4 and Ottawa Citizen, 2 September 1901, p. 5).

As James Shields Murphy, editor of The Golfer, observed in the spring of 1898, “Probably the list of summer hotel golf links in the United States will next season eclipse that of the other side [Great Britain and Ireland], judging by the spread of the game at present. The amount of money the hotels are spending to lay out links equals that spent by many clubs” (vol 6 no 6 [April 1898], p. 249).


Golf courses became so ubiquitous at summer hotels and resorts by the late 1890s that jokes began to be published for the sake of those who thought the trend was silly, if not downright annoying:


“You are having a remarkably successful season, Mr. Whicks,” said Atterbury. “


Yes,” replied Mr. Whicks. “I advertised this place as the only hotel in the mountains that had no golf-links, and we have had nine applications for every room in the house.” (Almonte Gazette, 15 September 1899, p. 1)


In such a context, one can see that it was no doubt in the best interests of the owner of the Hotel Victoria, F.X. St. Jacques that he take over and maintain the well-designed golf links of the Victoria Golf Club, even after the club itself ceased to exist and its former members perhaps receded into the hotel background as guests no different from any others.


And we should also note that although there was good reason for the Hotel Victoria to maintain the links laid out by the Victoria Golf Club, there was also every reason for the club itself to have passed away quite naturally by 1903, for the complaint of the Ottawa Golf Club members who founded the Victoria Golf Club that the Chelsea Links were difficult to access from their summer residences in Aylmer was obviated by the Ottawa Golf Club’s purchase of its Aylmer Road site at the end of 1902: since the Hull Electric Railway ran right along the south side of the new property, golfers would be able to access the new site just as easily from Aylmer as from Ottawa.


For the vast majority of the Victoria Golf Club members, then, the club was no longer needed, and its golf course was now quite inferior when compared to the Ottawa Golf Club’s new eighteen-hole championship course laid out by one of the most respected golf architects in the United States at that time: Tom Bendelow.

Hotel Golf 1906-1915

How long the Victoria Golf Club lasted is not known, and neither is it known how the golf course fared until the hotel burned down in 1915 and literally disappeared from Aylmer.


But there are occasional references to golf facilities at the Hotel Victoria up to 1914

Figure 53 F.X. St. Jacques (1844-1904.

In December of 1904, the owner of Hotel Victoria, François Xavier St. Jacques, who had provided the rooms of the Russell Hotel for the meeting at which the Ottawa Golf Club was founded in 1891 and for the meeting at which the Victoria Golf Club was founded in 1899, unexpectedly died.


Since St. Jacques died intestate and disputes arose as to directions he had given regarding his wishes, a complicated legal battle arose concerning the administration of his extensive estate, which included the Hotel Victoria (valued at $28,000).


In August of 1905, the hotel was put up for sale

In the spring of 1906, the new owners of the hotel promoted its location and its facilities in terms with which we are familiar, and there was an interesting reference to its plans for golf:


The location on the elevation overlooking Lake Deschenes is an ideal one and while removed from the noise and heat and bustle of the city, it is only a few minutes run by the cars and that ride across green fields and by the riverbank is in itself a refreshing tonic and appetizer. The hundred rooms are spacious, airy, and well ventilated, and in the cool evening big log fires lend an additional air of comfort. Around the hotel are great wide verandahs, furnishing magnificent promenades and commanding views of the lake and surrounding country. There is a large billiard room, bowling alleys and dancing floor, and it is intended to lay out a golf course. (Ottawa Citizen, 28 May 1906, p. 7)


The intention to lay out a new golf course suggests that St. Jacques had allowed the earlier golf course to fall into disuse. 


That the new owners followed through on their plan to lay out a golf course is clear from a newspaper promotion at the beginning of the 1914 season:


Hotel Victoria


With the advancing round of the year, Hotel Victoria, the popular hostelry on the Aylmer line, with its unnumerable facilities for enjoyment, is being largely patronized. Already many of the suites have been engaged for the summer months and holiday makers are arriving daily. Situated as it is, on high ground overlooking breezy Lake Deschênes, surrounded with smooth lawns and well-kept flower beds, it makes an ideal spot for a restful holiday. Many are the facilities for sport and pleasure. Fine boating, excellent bathing, tennis, croquet, bowling and golf are among the sports to be obtained. A couple of new tennis courts have been laid out which are kept in excellent condition. Besides golf of the Scotch variety, a novelty has been introduced in the form of clock golf, which embraces all of the exhilaration of the other, but does not entail the long cross-country walks. (Ottawa Journal, 20 June 1914, p. 12)


In addition to its golf course requiring “long cross-country walks” for the “Scotch variety” of golf, Hotel Victoria had built a facility for “clock golf,” a game that was popular from the 1890s to the 1920s, both at popular resorts and at private homes.

Figure 54 The iron numbers inserted into the ground to form the 12 putting positions on the circumference of the clock-golf putting surface.

It involved competitors taking turns trying to hole golf balls on a putting green. Players took turns trying to hole putts from positions laid out on the green in a circle around the hole. At the circumference of this circle were placed numbers from 1 to 12, representing the twelve hours on a clockface.

Players took turns putting from each number, the winner being the one who accomplished the circuit of the twelve “hours” in the fewest strokes

The game had become popular in the Ottawa area by the time of World War I. In 1915, for instance, Mary Rosamond hosted a “Lilac Tea” at her Almonte home in support of the Sewing Committee of the Daughters of the Empire, a charity event to raise funds in support of Canada’s soldiers and their families during World War I, and events that day included “a putting competition and clock golf on the lawn” (Almonte Gazette, 21 May 1915, p. 1).


A carefully designed and well-tended clock-golf putting surface became a regular feature of the sporting facilities offered by resorts across North America.

Figure 55 Clock golf played on a sand putting surface at the Royal Palms Hotel, Miami, Florida, circa 1905

The popularity of clock golf was a sign of just how widely knowledge of the game of golf was spreading amongst those who patronized the summer resorts in Canada and the northeastern American states and the winter resorts of the American South.


The Victoria Golf Club did not last a long time.


And although its golf course – once thought to have had the potential to have become one of the best in Canada – seems to have survived the demise of the club, the original golf course of 1899 may have been replaced in 1906 by a new design.


But the Victoria Golf Club was nonetheless Ottawa’s second golf club, and for this reason alone deserves a place in the history of golf in the Ottawa-Gatineau region.


Perhaps its only legacy is a general one shared with a dozen other golf clubs in the region that lasted only a short while in the late 1800s and early 1900s: like other golf clubs of this early era, it simultaneously satisfied and stimulated an appetite for golf in communities large and small throughout Eastern Ontario and the Outaouais.


Or perhaps the Victoria Golf Club, its golf course, and the golf facilities maintained by the Hotel Victoria have a more particular legacy: they may have played an important part in the Ottawa Golf Club’s choice in the fall of 1902 of a property along the Aylmer Road as the site of its new eighteen-hole championship layout.


After the Ottawa Golf Club’s sale of its Chelsea Links to the International Portland Cement Company in 1902, the committee appointed to find a suitable location for a new golf course and a new clubhouse came up with four recommendations by November of 1902: “The club has four tracts of land in view, two on the Britannia line [of the Ottawa Electric Railway], one at Rockcliffe, and the other in the Aylmer Road. The latter named is being most favorably considered” (Ottawa Journal, 14 November 1902, p. 10).


Why was the Aylmer Road location “most favorably considered”? After all, nearly all of the members of the Ottawa Golf Club lived in Ottawa.


It is possible that when a majority of club members voted for the present Aylmer Road site, a substantial portion of that majority was provided by those who had also been members of the Victoria Golf Club and saw in the proposed new site – which was “only 100 yards from the electric cars” – the solution to the problem that had led them to develop their alternative Aylmer golf course in the first place (Ottawa Journal, 14 November 1902, p. 10).


In other words, without the votes for the Aylmer Road property by its former Victoria Golf Club members who had become used to having easy access to golf from their summer residences in Aylmer, the Ottawa Golf Club might well have found itself on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River.


And if that had come to pass, who knows what the future might have held for the Ottawa Golf Club?

© Donald J. Childs 2022

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