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January 11, 2008

House Detective History Update



The four articles I wrote in November and December about the genealogy of properties raised some questions from readers - some of which I have some additional information on. 

Annie Spetz (1874-1963) 

I did not have much information on the owner of the abandoned house in the bush on the Alsace Road in Nipissing Township (formerly Gurd Township) when I wrote the article on November 2nd prompted by Jamie Toeppner's photos.  Gladys Piper and Viola Rowan, the archivists in the history room in the museum in the Alsace Catholic Church kindly provided me with their research on Annie. 

Annie's parents Joseph and Mary Spetz and Joseph's family were in the brewery business in Berlin Germany in the late 1860s when prohibition curtailed their work.  They came to Canada and settled in Gurd Township west of  Powassan.  Other relatives settled in the Kitchener Waterloo area.  Annie's parents believed in education and sent Annie to Toronto to live with relatives and attend a Catholic school and go to Church in St. Michael's Cathedral.  She eventually became a nurse in the second graduating class of St. Michaels Hospital in 1893 (see photo). 

Graduation photo of Annie Spetz as a nurse from St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto in 1893.

Annie did graduate work in New York and was a nurse in the U.S. Army in WWI.  Her career is vague other than the details above.  She spent most of her nursing career in Toronto.  In 1933 she retired back to the family farm in Alsace 1.5 miles from the Alsace Church.  She never married.  She lived with her brother, also unmarried, in Powassan for a period.  Her other brother was a priest and had a long career in Buffalo. 

Her Powassan brother Wm. E. Spetz had a thriving jewellery business in Powassan and was a Justice of the Peace, and a Notary Public.  He also sold early gramophones and sewing machines (see letterhead).  Annie took over the farm when her parents died.  A part of the original farm was attached to the church and now serves as the history room.  Copies of some of Annie's correspondence from various sources were acquired and deposited in the history room.  Annie was a forceful person, for example writing letters criticizing the development of practical nurses who got some of their training by correspondence.  She also complained to one publication that Roman should be used in front of Catholic when referring to the church. 

Annie was a devout Roman Catholic and made daily trips to the Alsace Church where she was the Sacristan and where she maintained the altar and furnishings, prayed and "kept the young curats from Trout Creek on their toes".  She made a trip by plane to Rome in 1950 to visit the Vatican.  On another occasion she went to Cincinnati to visit an old friend. 

In her 60s she took up skiing probably to help with her daily trips on the bush road from her house to the church. 

There is a newspaper clipping of her on her skis in her 80s. 

Annie had no electricity or running water, but she did have a battery radio.  The mailman dropped off items for her on a regular basis even though she have him a hard time and wrote the occasional letter to the Postmaster (which usually got lost on the way). 

Annie Spetz, (centre) age 83 resting with friends at home of Emilie (Kahnert) Robertson  to Annie's left, and Antonia (Kahnert) Straus to Annie's right after being found in bush for 5 days.

In 1958 at age 83 when she did not pick up her mail one Tuesday, over 40 volunteers searched for her.  She was found on Sunday in remarkably good shape.  She spent some time in Powassan with women friends and relatives, two of whom were Kahnerts - the family that owned the original cottage in Nipissing Village as discussed in another of the house detective articles (see photo).  She died at age 88 after being removed from her home for what she thought were communists in her woods. 

Letterhead of W.E. Spetz, Annie's brother, showing variety of business he ran in 1909. Submitted photos from St. John Evangelist Church Archives, Alsace.

The Spetz History is housed in the History Room at St. John Evangelist Church in Alsace and is open after church services from May 24th to Thanksgiving, or you may contact Viola Rowan at 729-5435 or Gladys Piper at 724-2206. 

The Sovereign Bank 

In my article on November 30 I said "Why the bank disappeared we do not know".  Fortunately there are history hawks out there who have expertise and are prepared to share it. 

One researcher emailed me about the demise of the bank.  The dying Sovereign Bank liquidated its assets in 1908.  To prevent a banking crisis four other banks took over the Bank's many branches and guaranteed depositors assets.  The Royal Bank took over six branches including Burks Falls and South River.  Some depositors withdrew money but most didn't and the crisis was diverted. 

The South River bank became a Royal Bank - a wise move by the baking industry.

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