Dunvegan’s first millionaire

15 Feb

With the pandemic-fuelled surge in real estate prices, I suspect finding millionaires in Dunvegan today would be a fairly easy task. A quick check of one real estate site lists two properties with price tags of $750,000… and that’s with just over an acre or so of land each.

‘Twasn’t always this way. Nevertheless, 125 years ago Dunvegan could boast of at least one: Angus McIntosh. Angus was ‘from away’, sort of. Born in 1834, he grew up on his family’s farm near Dalkeith. Little is known of his early life. Although, one historian has suggested he might have stayed in school until age 17, far longer than most of his contemporaries. After graduation, Angus McIntosh tried his hand at teaching, no doubt in a one-room schoolhouse. But three years at the head of a classroom taught him that teaching wasn’t his true calling. He obviously had the spirit of an entrepreneur, as evidenced by the remainder of his working life.

First stop after turning in his school bell was Laggan. There he went into business with Archie MacGillivray and started a general store. However, the partnership was short lived; he bought out MacGillivray. After a few years, Angus cast about for a location with greater potential and settled on Dunvegan. There he purchased a log building from Alexander MacLeod. Still standing, we know it today as the Glengarry Pioneer Museum’s Star Inn. The McIntosh General Store flourished in this location from 1867 to 1877. Like most successful enterprises,though, his business needed more space. So he sold what would soon be converted to a hotel and tavern and purchased the building on the northeast corner of the crossroads. It was yet another winning business decision.

The increasingly profitable retail operation allowed Angus McIntosh to pull back from merchandising. Just like today, banks in rural villages and hamlets were scarcer than hen’s teeth. However, there were no smartphone banking apps back then. And getting to town wasmuch more of an undertaking. Angus McIntosh saw a real need and gradually came to fill it by and focusing more and more on real estate and financial services.

In meeting the material, real estate and financial needs of farmers, he kept the wheels of the local economy turning smoothly. And his reputation for honesty and fair dealing won him new, interest-earning opportunities from Lancaster to Plantagenet. Next week, we’ll dig deeper into the history behind this well-respected merchant and financier.

Amish murder mystery

For the Dunvegan Recreation’s ‘Movie Night’ this coming Saturday, it looks like Laurie Maus and Bob Garner have chosen a perfect flick to get you in the mood for Valentine’s Day: Witness starring Harrison Ford and Kelly Ann McGillis. I’ve never heard of the film, but am looking forward to seeing it. Rotten Tomatoes, the movie rating web site, reported an audience approval score of 80%, and its Tomatometer registered 93%.

Here’s a brief synopsis. At the end of a train journey to Philadelphia with his widowed mother, an Amish boy accidently sees a murder being committed. The tough police detective assigned to the case is forced to protect his young witness by driving the boy and his mother back home to their Amish community. If this sounds more like a thriller, you’re right. But, as critic Roger Ebert pointed out, the real movie begins when they reach Pennsylvania and the film “turns into an intelligent and perceptive love story… about two independent, complicated people who begin to love each other because they have shared danger… work well together, (and) respect each other.”

Hopefully, we’ll see some of you Saturday, February 18th at 7:00 pm. As always, admission to the makeshift theatre, and all the hot-buttered popcorn you can eat, are free. However, a $5 donation to the DRA is suggested. Bob and Laurie also recommend bringing a comfy cushion or even your own chair… and your favourite liquid refreshment.

As an added bonus, this month’s cinematic hors d’oeuvre will show a Citroen (not sure which model… or why for that matter) being catapulted into the air — and, gravity being what it is, I predict falling to earth.

Kitchen party at hall

If you’re a local musician who’s into country, blues or rock & roll, this next item should begood news for you. Dunveganite Denis Lavigne is organizing another “Dunvegan Jam” event on Saturday, February 25th at 7:00 pm. The previous two musical get-togethers, when held before the Great Lockdown, were very well received. And I know a number of musicians who have expressed interest, including Dunvegan’s busker-not-in-residence, Steve Merritt, and Zac Bowland from Montana, who now calls the foothills of Dalkeith home.

There’s no admission and everyone is invited to bring his or her instrument of choice and make music together. The DRA Hall is located at 19053 County Road 24. By the way, given the lack of the word “hootenanny” in the event’s title, I’m not sure if proponents of the folk music genre are welcome. However, if this or any other event-related questions come to mind, give Denis a call at 613-363-8562.

150 years young

While researching the item after this one, I noticed that Dunvegan’s sesquicentennial (150thbirthday) will take place on July 5th, 2027. That’s the July day in 1877 when Plan 23 of part of the Village of Dunvegan, drawn by James Pendelton Wells, was filed and registered. I know it’s four years hence, but with this generous amount of lead-time, I’m hoping the Township and United Counties will partner with the Glengarry Pioneer Museum, the Dunvegan Recreation Association and the Kenyon Presbyterian Church to throw a really fine birthday bash.