Say Hello to Edgar

Back in 2004 I wrote about my habit of naming servers after my grandparents. Well, earlier this year, after naming my iMac louise, my iBook ada and my WRT54G nettie, I ran out of grandparents.

So when it came time to name the new Linksys NSLU2 on the weekend, I had to reach back a generation: I named the device edgar after my great-grandfather Edgar Caswell.

Here’s the obituary that ran in The Northland Post in Cochrane, Ontario on August 24th, 1950 after Edgar died:

Edgar Caswell died early Sunday morning in his 79th year, taking from the life of Cochrane one of its earliest pioneers and most energetic, enthusiastic citizens as well as its public servant with the longest record of service. Northern Ontario lost one of its most efficient and most-honoured fire-fighters and an untiring prophet of the country’s greatness.
When Mr. Caswell resigned as fire chief of the town in January 1946, he had completed more than 29 years of service in that post, and had been nearly 33 years on the staff of the town. Then in his 74th year, he was unable to endure an easy life, and built a new service station operating it until the end of the following year. Even a stroke could not keep him down for long, and although he had suffered a couple of periods of enforced idleness this year he was “on the go” practically until he was admitted to the Lady Minto Hospital last Friday. Just the week before he had taken his brother John to Timmins, Schumacher, Iroquois Falls and other communities to show him the sights, rather grudgingly permitting his son-in-law to drive, and had followed that excursion with a trip to Lowbush.
Edgar Caswell was born in Carleton Place, Ont., on June 2nd, 1872, the third child in a family of 11. While he was still young the family took a first jump north to Cobden, in the Ottawa valley, and there Ed entered in partnership with his brother Bob upon a brickworks and building enterprise which prospered for several years until a local building boom began to subside. Bob scouted west, Ed through Northern Ontario, and when the former died in 1907 Ed was ready for a move.
It was at the beginning of 1909 that Ed reached Cochrane, his family following in the spring. He carried on as a builder and contractor, one of his first contracts being for the foundations of the new station. Then he started a grocery store, which Mrs. Caswell carried on for a time while her husband worked out of town on railway construction. Following an attack of typhoid, however, he returned to town, sold the store, and entered the service of the municipality in May, 1913. During the next 30 years he filled practically every position on the town staff outside the offices. He was town foreman and building inspector for many years, and at one time even served as acting chief of police.
Mr. Caswell’s period of residence here of course covered the three great fires -1910, 1911 and 1916- and the many smaller ones. His possessions were wiped out in the 1911 conflagration, and he became fire chief shortly after the 1916 fire. It was in this capacity that he won widest recognition, not only in district, but in provincial and national circles. He was president of the Temiskaming Firemen’s Association for the year 1922-23, and of the District of Cochrane Firemen’s Association 1940-41.
Outside the strict line of his duties, Mr. Caswell has shared in the work of organization connected with most of the important events in the municipality’s history. He had much of the responsibility for organization during the terrible epidemics which scourged the community, the ‘flu epidemics and the fever. He was untiring not only in connection with such events as firemen’s tournaments and conventions, but with every type of town and district celebration, and served as vice-chairman of the committee for the recent Old Home Week until about three months ago when even he realized that he would have to “slow down” somewhat.
Mr. Caswell made it a practice, however, while a town employee, not to serve officially on town boards and associations. He made one exception, for the Cochrane Board of Trade, on whose executive council he served continuously from the time of the Board’s reorganization in 1943 until he submitted his resignation this spring. He had been offered the presidency if his health permitted, and a few weeks ago, following resignation from the council was informed that recommendation was going forward to the Board that he be made a life member and honourary president. Under the constitution such action requires several months to complete, and he did not live to receive these honours in a formal way.
From the time of his arrival here he was an active member and office-bearer in his church, first the Methodist congregation, then the local union, and since 1925 the United Church congregation of which he was an elder form the time the Session was constituted.
His exceptionally retentive memory made Mr. Caswell a walking history of the town, and in recognition of his contribution to the printed story Mrs. B.D. Marwick’s recent history, “Northland Post”, was dedicated to him.
Mrs. Caswell passed away in March, 1946, following a tragic fire accident. Surviving are three daughters, one son, six grandchildren, and on great-grandchild. The children are Vera (Mrs. R.E. Wilson) and Ada of Cochrane, Lena of Toronto, and Ross of Cochrane. There are also two brothers and two sisters living: John of Beachburg, Reuben of Cobden, Mrs. Mary Collins of Cochrane, and Della (Mrs. Morgan Doyle) of Finch, Ont.
St. Paul’s United Church was filled to capacity on Tuesday afternoon when the funeral service following a short service in the home, was conducted by Rev. C.C. Gilbert, assited by Rev. H.C. Mateer of South Porcupine. Members of the volunteer Fire Brigade formed a guard-of-honour, and the pallbearers were all men who had served with Mr. Caswell on the Brigade for many years: Messrs. Gordon Cook, Murray Fingland, Donat Gamelin, Bert Pollock, Alex David and Earl Hurst. Interment was in Cochrane Cemetery.
Among those present from other communities were Mr. Robert Jones of Toronto; Mr. Reuben Caswell of Cobden, (his brother John had been here just a few days before); Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Collins, Cobden; Mr. and Mrs. Ted Thomas, Timmins; Mr. and Mrs. J.S. MacLaren and Jean, Iroquois Falls; Mrs. Dave Price, Lowbush; Mr. and Mrs. Bob Best and Miss Lena Caswell, Toronto; Miss Grace Wilson and Mr. Bert Wilson, Kingston, Representing out -of-town fire brigades were chief Wm. Stanley of Timmins; chief M. McMillan of Schumacher; inspector Jos. R. Miller of the Fire Marshal’s office; chief Geo. McKelvie and Mrs. McKelvie, Hill-Clark-Francis brigade, New Liskeard; Mrs. Roy Grills, new Liskeard; Mrs. Roy Grills, New Liskeard; chief Herb Wilkes, Iroquois Falls; chief Ed Campbell, Montrock; chief Secord Robinson and Mr. A.P. Griffin of Kapuskasing.
A very unusual incident at the beginning of the week testified to the widespread and high regard in which Mr. Caswell was held. Flowers and sprays were at first refused because of the express embargo made necessary by the impending railway strike, but then the C.N.R. ordered that an exception be made for floral tributes for the deceased only, and flowers came through while the trains continued to run.

Comments

kelly's picture
kelly on January 18, 2006 - 01:51

Wow, interesting piece of personal history Peter, thanks for sharing.

Harv Bell's picture
Harv Bell on April 14, 2006 - 04:20

Hi

That was a nice tribute. My grandmother was a Caswell — Amelia (Mame). Her father was Lorenzo, her mother Anastasia and she spent most of her days in Coldwater, Ont. Any relation? By any chance do you have any pertinent history of the Caswells I could peruse on-line?

Thanks for your time.

Bonnie MacDonald's picture
Bonnie MacDonald on May 15, 2006 - 04:57

My Grandmother Elizabeth MacDonald and my grandfather Archie MacDonald were great friends and neighbours of Ross Caswell in Cochrane for years.

Debbie's picture
Debbie on August 3, 2006 - 12:29

We hope to compile a book to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the incorporation of the Town of Cochrane by putting together a book of important people who lived in Cochrane. We’d love to include Mr. Caswell. Do you have any other information on him besides the obituary? Any pictures? Thank You.

James Waddell's picture
James Waddell on October 18, 2009 - 04:27

Hey Mr. Bell.

My mother was Ellen Josephine Caswell, born Coldwater 1914(?) in the front parlour of my great uncle Charlie eplett.

My Grandmother, Josephine Eplett along with two brothers married 3 Caswells. They all headed north with Sam Eplett settling in New Liskerd and My grandfather in Sudbury.

Contact Mike Caswell at www.caswellplating.com. He has a unique history of our american cousins and has the Canadian connection well described.

Hope this is of some help.

Sincerely

James H.l. Waddell

Add new comment