Thomas Walter Edwin Sowter


The research that is represented in this modest web page took place over the course of several years.  It began as I was preparing a small exhibition on the Ancient History of the Ottawa region, Kichi Sibi.   It was based upon discoveries made by non-archaeologists beginning in the late XIXth century, who had the presence of mind to donate their precious discoveries to a public institution which eventually became the Canadian Museum of Civilization.  While T.W. Edwin Sowter's collections have disappeared from our sights, his writings persist and continue to orient students of the National Capital region's past.

Finding information about Mr. Sowter was initially quite an undertaking and the first step was quite accidental.  One day, while at the National Archives of Canada, I had some time to myself as I waited for an image to be located.  Knowing that T.W.E. Sowter had once lived and presumably died in the town of Aylmer, Québec, I located a compilation of the burials in Aylmer's protestant Bellevue cemetery.  There, I quickly found three Sowter entries, those of T.W. Edwin Sowter, Edwin Sowter and Maud Forsythe, née Sowter, the wife of John Forsythe.  Knowing there were no Sowter's in the modern Aylmer phone directory I took a chance that of the 15 or so Forsythe's, one of them might know of T.W.E. Sowter.  The first had no incling of whom I was speaking, but with the second on the list, I struck gold.  While Gilbert Forsythe knew nothing of T.W. Edwin Sowter, he knew someone who did; Mrs. Maud McCaffrey, a grand-daughter of Mr. Sowter.  She opened up the memorabilia that she still has of her grand-father, essentially bringing him out of the dark and allowing us all to know this man as more than a mere author on the yellowed  pages of old journal articles.

Gil Delaney, photographic archivist at the Library and Archives Canada was very helpful in locating Ami photographs of Sowter, Lighthouse Island and an outing of the Ottawa Field Naturalists' Club at Picton.

At the Geological Survey of Canada Jean Dougherty kindly provided access to specimens of the National Vertebrate and Invertebrate Collection.  She also pointed me to the pertinent literature dealing with Sowteria canadensis, a Palaeozoic fossil named in Mr. Sowter's honour.  The lead to that collection was graciously drawn by Dr. Stephen Cumbaa of the Canadian Museum of Nature.

Dr. Mima Kapches, upon reading a published biographical note on T.W.E. Sowter immediately thought of a letter in the Royal Ontario Museum Archives which she copied and passed along.  Again, this note, sent to David Boyle in 1908, shows Mr. Sowter's passion and sense of urgency about undertaking the archaeological work that he did.  It is a valuable testimony from his own hand.

Lois Boucher, her husband Brian and Mel Garner kindly allowed me to visit Christ Church in Aylmer on a cold January morning of 2003 in order to record Mr. Sowter's handiwork as an artist.  They also provided me with a copy of a poem he had written as well as a copy of a small booklet on the history of that fine old church.

Nathalie Huard and Michael Dixon, the current residents of Cherry Cottage, Mr. Sowter's former place of residence, kindly allowed me to use photographs of their home in this page.  Similarly, the Aylmer Heritage Association granted permission to use historical photographs of Cherry Cottage as published in a book by the late Diane Aldred under the auspices of the Association.

Lastly, I would like to thank Dr. Roger Marois for his careful editing of the French version of this website; adding greater precision to the words and text.

Jean-Luc Pilon
Curator of Ontario Archaeology
Canadian Museum of Civilization
Gatineau, Québec

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