Monday, October 10, 2011

The Senneville Time Warp

That's the title of a book by Hilary Hedges that I came across in the most unusual way.

Thanksgiving weekend was nothing short of phenomenal.  Our sons joined us, traveling from Vancouver and Toronto, and we had not one, but two turkey dinners with all the trimmings, one at home as a family with dear friends, and a second at my sister's with our two extended families.

That would have been enough to make for a fantastic long weekend.

But the weather, the weather, what can be said about the weather?  It was summer!  Not a late fall reprieve from the chill, but full-on, wipe your brow, squint your eyes, summer.  Temperature in the high 20's (high seventies for those where Fahrenheit rules), blue skies, warm breezy days, all the way from Saturday through Monday.  Never do I remember a Thanksgiving weekend like this.

On Monday afternoon, our out of town guests began to hit the road headed for home.  After cleaning up the brunch dishes, I jumped on my Vespa for a joy ride out to Senneville.

The warm breezy afternoon; the lovely winding road out to Senneville along the lake shore; the company of motorcycles; other scooters (including a man on a Vespa GTS and a woman on an LX; I followed them for a quarter mile or so before they turned down a side road); vintage sports cars; once I got to Senneville, the sunshine-dappled country road; maple trees breaking into their fall colours providing a multi-coloured canopy; all combined to make the ride dreamy.  This is the kind of experience that sells Vespas.

Was there anything that could have made this day better?  Yes there was! But there was no way I could have imagined it.

My casual objective for my ride to Senneville was to check up on a historic monument that has gone missing.  How does a historic monument go missing?  I wish I knew.  Vandals are the obvious culprits.  But you would expect vandals to resort to spray paint, to deface the monument, not carry it off.

The monument in question is a bronze plaque measuring about two by three feet, mounted on a concrete slab framed by cast iron girders.  It is off by the side of the road, surrounded by a wrought iron fence.

I came upon it many, many years ago.  At the time I had a Solex moped.  I had just written my last exam in my last year of undergrad.  I had set off on a very long ride solo, with the objective of going around the western tip of the island.  I had never done this before.  It was the first time I had been to Senneville, the westernmost suburb on the Island of Montreal.  That was how I stumbled upon the monument.

The plaque commemorated a skirmish between the colonists of New France and the Iroquois tribe of the native people.  The engagement was the first counterattack by the colonists following the horrific Lachine massacre in August of 1689.

Billed as the Battle of the Lake of Two Mountains, the engagement was by a small force of 28 soldiers from the Montreal garrison against 22 Iroquois.  The monument marks the place where the battle took place.

Having once stopped to read the plaque all those years ago, I have stopped by from time to time to visit that spot.  It's kind of special to me because it was a surprise to find it in the first place, and that serendipitous find blended with its isolation on the Montreal shore of the Lake of Two Mountains lends a kind of magic to it, at least in my mind.

To add to the allure of the monument, at some time in the recent past, the bronze plaque has disappeared.  The wrought iron fence marking the place is intact, as is the concrete wall where the plaque was mounted, but the plaque itself is nowhere to be seen.

It was bronze, so it couldn't have needed repair or restoration.  Was it taken down because historians discredited the story it told?  Given activism on the part of the native peoples in the recent past, did they make off with the plaque because the plaque commemorates a vicious act of war against native peoples?  Did a history buff make off with it and is now hoarding it in his basement?  Did aliens take it for further study or to place in a museum on their home planet?

Did I imagine the plaque to begin with?  When something just disappears, you can begin to question your memory.

Riding a Vespa makes it easy to stop to investigate things.  The road is very narrow by the monument and there is nowhere to park a car.
But there is plenty of room for a Vespa.  So I pulled over right in front of the monument to take a closer look.
And that's when I found it.

Resting at the foot of the monument was a document in a zip lock polyethylene bag.
I switched off the motor, pulled off my helmet and gloves, plucked out my earplugs, put the Vespa up on its centre stand, and picked up the bag.

Inside the bag was Ms. Hedges' book, Senneville Time Warp.  There was no time to sit and read the book.  That might be the subject of another ride.  I did snap some photos of this remarkable piece of ephemera though.   I love ephemera.  Surely that book in that bag will disappear, maybe even find its way to where the plaque is.  Who knows?

The book is a fictional account of the battle, seen by the eyes of time-traveling kids, with the Iroquois as protagonists, I think.  It's hard to tell when you only take five minutes or so to examine a book.
The particularly wonderful thing, is that there is a picture of the missing plaque in the book!  How cool is that?  Here is a photo, of the photo of the plaque, in the book:
So I wasn't imagining this all along.

I also took a close up of the picture in the book, hoping that when I got home I'd be able to read the inscription.  As luck would have it, I was able to read it.  It says (said?  It may no longer exist, after all):

"The Battle of the Lake of Two Mountains

Following the Lachine massacre in August of 1689, the Iroquois continued to terrorize the Montreal area.  In October, Governor Denonville sent out a scouting party of 28 under the Sieurs Dulhut and d’Ailleboust de Manthet which came upon a party of 22 Iroquois in the Lake of Two Mountains.  In the mêlée that followed this surprise encounter, 18 Iroquois were killed, three taken prisoner while one swam to safety.  This victory did much to restore the shaken confidence of the inhabitants.

Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada."

I carefully returned the book to the zip lock bag, took care to re-seal it, and placed it back at the foot of the monument exactly as I found it.

As soon as I got home I dove into Google.  What more could I learn about the battle, the missing plaque, and Hilary Hedges and her book?

Well the monument has a web site.  So that's a start.

And then, even more curiously, the only reference I could find to Senneville Time Warp was an entry on a Swedish web site (how weird is that?) where the title is misspelled.

Of course, as you might expect, there is no shortage of MySpace, Facebook and LinkedIn pages for Hilary Hedges (or Hillary Hedges, but I'm guessing she didn't get her own first name wrong on the cover of her book).  I'm sparing you those links.  I don't have time in my busy life to figure out if any of them belong to the real Hilary Hedges of Senneville Time Warp fame, and you shouldn't either.  If I'm wrong and you have taken the time to figure it out, please put up a post here and share your find.

Hilary Hedges, if you come across this page, please, please, please, post a comment to fill in the rest of this story.

Pretty cool for a Thanksgiving weekend, no?

Maybe one day I'll tell the tale of another disappearing monument from my college days: the modern granite monument to Dollard des Ormeaux in Carillon Quebec recreating the fateful stockade on the Long Sault along the Ottawa river where Dollard and his small band met their demise at the hands of the Iroquois during the same war between the French colonists and the native people of Canada.  It's kind of Canada's Alamo story.  At least that's the way it was told to us in grade school.  Dollard supposedly lit a fuse in a powder keg, tried to heave it over the stockade wall at the attacking Iroquois, snagged a branch overhead, dropped the keg inside the stockade, and BOOOOM! That was supposedly the sorry end of Dollard and his men.  The truth?  Who knows what the truth was.

Unfortunately the native people were ill-matched not only in numbers and weaponry, but also in spin-doctoring.  So all these accounts are mostly one-sided.

 That's all for now.

Epilogue: There is more to this story.  Interested? Check out the History Lessons page.


Unknown said...


It's amazing how much we don't know about our Eastern neighbours. We learned a lot about BC history, but hardly any of Quebec. Ride your scooter to BC and I'll show you the HangMan's Tree in Lillooet, perhaps used by the famous Judge Begbie.

also known as the "Hanging Judge"

Riding the Wet Coast

Unknown said...


ps: link to Hangman's Tree, below

Riding the Wet Coast

The City Mouse in the Country said...

The book sounds wonderful and I can't help but wonder if it was part of the Book Crossing Movement. Where you leave a book in waterproof packing for someone to find and enjoy. I know some actually try to leave a book that details a location or time. :)

Keith - Circle Blue said...

I really liked this post. What a great little mystery with the book. Yes, I liked this post a lot.

Thanks for the share.

David Masse said...

Thanks for the link Bob. I'm pretty sure I'll be in Vancouver some time in late winter or early spring. I'll rent a scooter and I'll take you up on that ride.

Robert, I had never heard of bookcrossing. Thank you for adding the URL. I'm hoping that the author will find this and post an interesting follow up.

David Masse said...

Thanks for the kind words Keith. I confess that I had almost as much fun writing the post as having the experience.

Dar said...


What a great sounding weekend, warm breezes, loved ones, great food and a scooter adventure. The book thing sounds very intriguing. I will have a scout around the old book store here in Victoria and see if I can find a copy of it. Very cool.

David Masse said...

Dar, I'm hoping that Hilary Hedges, the author, will stumble on this post and put up a comment adding to the story. I found an e-mail address for the fellow who did the illustrations, Atmo Zakes, who teaches at John Abbott College in neighboring Ste-Anne de Bellevue. If the author doesn't stumble on the post, I may send out a less subtle (e-mail)message in a bottle. Glad to see all your progress towards your MC certification.

SonjaM said...

What's not to love? A family gathering, fantastic weather (high 20's? You got to be kidding me.), and a Vespa outing. And something in store for me, too. I have learned where Senneville is, and about its history. And I have learned a new word: Ephemera. I have the habit of collecting tickets, menus, bills and other travel snippets, but I didn't know that there is a name for this 'disease'.
And that mysterious book anecdote is wonderful. Thanks, David.

David Masse said...

Sonja, that book was truly ephemeral. We went to visit my Dad in Ottawa today and on the way home, I thought I'd stop by the monument, pick up the book, take it home to read, and then put it back later tonight. When I got there, the book was GONE! No surprise, really. The fact that now both the plaque and the book are missing, just adds to my curiosity.

Belkwinith said...

This was better than any Scooby Doo mystery. In college I used to wrap my paintings up in plastic and leave them at bus stops. I wondered for years of they ended up in the garbage or someone's dorm room. I love stuff like this in life it is freakin' whimsical as all heck! Loved reading about you contacting the author finally and getting more info. Great posts!

Habitant said...

Bonjour David,

Moi aussi j'ai découvert le livre de Hilary Hedges aujourd'hui en m'arrêtant au monument de la bataille du lac des Deux-Montagnes. J'y ai installé une plaque l'automne dernier. Cette plaque reproduit le texte original et vaut beaucoup moins cher que la plaque en bronze disparue. Celle-ci a probablement été vendu pour la ferraille au prix d'environ 300$...voilà la seule raison pourquoi cette plaque a été volée. Bonne, j'ai un Yamaha 250.

David Masse said...

Très intéressant! J'ai vu ta plaque et ça met beaucoup en valeur car le monument sans plaque demeure un mystère.

Mon épouse et moi sommes déménagés à Toronto. Avant de quitter, j'ai remis à la bibliothécaire de Beaconsfield des exemplaires du livre de Mme Hedges ainsi que des liens vers mon blog. Vous pourriez communiquer avec elle et la renseigner sur vod efforts. J'ignore ce qu'elle fera avec les livres, autre que de les intégrer dans la collection de la bibliothèque. Entre autre, elle ignorait l'existencw du fort et du moulin à Senneville.

Habitant said...

Merci de votre réponse David. Je vous souhaite bien du bonheur à Toronto. Je demeure à Dollard-des-Ormeaux mais je vais souvent à Senneville, surtout pour ramasser des noix de noyer noir (black walnut). Je me suis fait ami avec un des grands propriétaires qui a beaucoup de noyer noir sur sa propriété. C'est un arbre noble qui produit un excellent bois d’œuvre en plus de pouvoir nous nourrir avec ses fruits.

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.