Adventures of a Paper Sleuth Hugh P. MacMillan
HUGH PEARSON MACMILLAN
ROAMED THE HIGHWAYS, attics and basements of Ontario seeking out the often
forgotten, usually unappreciated treasures of our documentary heritage. He
involved himself in the founding of the Glengarry Historical Society, the
Dunvegan Pioneer Museum, and the Nor'Wester and Loyalist Museum at
Williamstown. In 1964, Hugh persuaded the Ontario Archives archivistto
hire him as a 'roving archivist.' Over the next 25 years, he secured the
deposit of an invaluable mass of documentation. All Canadians are in his
debt for his initiative in 1967 to retrace voyageur canoe routes and to
re-enact fur trade history. In 1984, MacMillan was honoured with a
Doctorate of Letters by Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario.
Here are just a few of the treasures located and acquired for the Archives
of Ontario from 1964-1989, as recounted by Hugh P. MacMillan in
Adventures of a Paper Sleuth:
The papers of Sir John Graves Simcoe,
first Lieutenant-Governor of Upper Canada (Ontario), found with a farmer
from New Zealand.
A station wagon full of the papers of
Colonel RR McLennan, CPR contractor, world champion hammer thrower, and
Glengarry militia leader.
The bugle from Canada's first warship, The
A piece of presumed human skin in a small
tin box, with a note announcing "This is a piece of skin taken from the
neck of Cut Nose, Sioux Indian chief hanged at Mankato, Minnesota
Territory in 1866."
A previously unwanted collection now known
to be the largest cache of 28mm film ever found in North America.
"MacMillan deftly portrays
the quirky characters he encountered in his travels, and the fascinating
but unsung figures whose lives and works are preserved in historical
records...MacMillan is a pure storyteller who avoids drawing grand
conclusions about his life's work or the state of historical preservation
in this country. But as you read his tales, you are reminded again and
again that Canadian history is rarely dull and that this country has
produced some truly unusual characters."
The Globe and Mail
"All of Hugh's friends and innumerable acquaintances will welcome the
appearance of this book, which will undoubtedly make him many new friends
as readers yet unknown are invited to share some of his remarkable
experiences, his triumphs and his disappointments, but above all his
infectious enthusiasm and appetite for life. Hugh is one of a kind and has
made a massive contribution to his country and its heritage. That
contribution is by no means transitory or ephemeral; it will be valued and
appreciated as long as people continue to investigate the history of this
great nation. This is his story."
Ted Cowan, Professor of Scottish Studies, University of Glasgow,
"For more than 25 years, Hugh has roamed the highways, attics and
basements of Ontario seeking out the often forgotten, usually
unappreciated treasures of our documentary heritage. Combining the skills
of a great detective with patience and tenacity, he rescued many fragile
records of our experience. His passion for history has been infectious,
enlisting the help of many in the cause, and triumphing over beaurocracy
and indifference. His achievements have been real and numerous. His
exploits, though, are the stuff of legend."
Ian E. Wilson, Librarian and Archivist of Canada
Hugh Pearson MacMillan was
born in 1924 in Fitzroy Harbour, near Arnprior in the Ottawa Valley. His
ancestors came to Canada from Scotland in 1793. By age 39, Hugh had been a
soldier, a farmer, a sailor, an insurance agent, a journalist, and a
public relations manager for a circus company and for a hypnotist. In the
late 1950s, Hugh began to pursue his long-time interest in local and
family history, involving himself in the founding of the Glengarry
Historical Society, the Dunvegan Pioneer Museum, and the NorWester and
Loyalist Museum at Williamstown. In 1964, Hugh persuaded the Ontario
Archives to hire him as a roving archivist. Over the next 25 years, he
secured the deposit of an invaluable mass of documentation. All Canadians
are in his debt for his initiative in 1967 to retrace voyageur canoe
routes and to re-enact fur trade history. In 1984, MacMillan was honoured
with a Doctorate of Letters by Laurentian University, Sudbury, Ontario.
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