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The 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 Rainbow.
     
  • 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, Scotland

    "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 Macmillan
    Author

    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.

  • Here is a .pdf file of Chapter 1

    You can purchase the book here!


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