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Local Heroes 16

Col. T.D.B. Evans 1899

A Great Canadian Hero Trashed by a Museum

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Col. TDB Evans
Orig. photo - Image Size - 4" x 5.5"
Found - Burlington, ON
Original frame & glass, "Colonel Evans" written on back
A Tragic Fate for a Canadian Hero Narrowly Averted: We spotted this portrait photograph, in a delicate period frame, tossed among a pile of old pictures and broken frames, being auctioned off at a country auction. The glass was wavy - so it was some 100 years old. His uniform and pose said 19th century. His face was familiar too. Written in faded, almost obscured, pencil on the back was Col. Evans.

No one knew who he was, or cared. We got him for $20.

Perfectly Legal: Further investigation revealed that a number of similar period memorabilia items were being sold off, anonymously, through the auction. Plates, and mugs in glowingly mint condition from the 1890s, featuring Canadian prime ministers, Queen Victoria, and Edward VII, were also part of the lot.

"Can't tell whose doing it," said the auctioneer when we inquired, "Because they want anonymity. It's a museum that wants to clear space for other things. They obviously don't want this to get out and make their donors mad. You know. And dry up donations and contributions. But it's perfectly legal." And commonplace... Read on...

Col. TDB Evans: When Canada decided to send its first military contingent, ever, to fight in a foreign war, Col. Evans was appointed Second in Command of the Second Contingent, the Canadian Mounted Rifles.

He and his fellow officers readied their men in Toronto at the Stanley Barracks.

Stanley Barracks, Then & Now: The main military installation for the Canadian Militia in Ontario, at the turn of the century, was the "New Fort," a complex of some five large limestone buildings called Stanley Barracks, just west of Old Fort York, along the waterfront, in Toronto (below left). The lake can be seen between the buildings. A photo taken about 1906 shows Canadian militiamen doing a march past, perhaps on Victoria Day.

The members of the First Contingent actually embarked for South Africa wearing white pith helmets like those shown. They made wonderful targets for Boer sharpshooters. Soon the men were staining their ...... helmets! With tea, anything khaki...
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Stanley Barracks, Toronto, ON - 1906
Orig. colour postcard - Image Size - 3.5" x 5.5"
Found - Hoboken, NJ
You're Next: The same spot today with only the Officer's Barracks remaining to watch over the field where generations of Canada's most honoured soldiers once marched. The other historic limestone buildings have been razed to make way for parking lots.
This building - now a marine museum - is being targeted by the city fathers and their developer friends for - what else - levelling to put up a complex of high rise buildings and pave over another Great Canadian Historic Site. (CN tower in distance.)

Left to right, Capt. Pearse, Capt. Harrison,
Lt. Elmsley, Lt. Col Evans, Lt. King,
Lt. Cockburn VC, Capt. Nelles.
Col. Evans and Officers of the Canadian Mounted Rifles 1900: The same door in 1900, and 2004.
Shame! Shame! The door, left, is the far door shown in the Officer's Quarters above.

The officers slept inside as they readied the contingent for service in South Africa. Col. Evans and his officers, including a future Victoria Cross winner, posed on the steps before leaving for Africa.

Right the same door today. You can match up the marks in the blocks to verify the location. Even the door and transom glass is original and heard their excited voices as they prepared for their Great Adventure overseas.

But not for long. Can you hear the bulldozers driven by the Mayor and council coming closer!!!

Coeburn or Cockburn?

Standing in the group above was an officer who would earn undying fame in the annals of military history. He would win one of only four Victoria Crosses awarded to Canadians during the two and a half year long Boer War.

Canada's third Victoria Cross of the Boer War was won at Leliefontein by Lt. Hampden Cockburn VC, who with a group of his men made a desperate stand to hold off the attacking Boers so that the Canadian guns could get away. They were all overrun and captured or killed. Today his VC and papers - he survived - are at Upper Canada College in Toronto where he had gone to school.

When doing research for our television program, we asked the custodial librarian, "Exactly how do you pronounce his name?"

She replied warily, "Around here we call him 'Coeburn.' You don't dare say the word "cock" around a private boy's school."

Right, Canadian historian and television producer John Goldi stands at Leliefontein where Cockburn and two other Canadians won Victoria Crosses on Nov. 7, 1900.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Discharge Papers of Otto Moody 2CMR - July 22, 1902
Orig. paper document - Size - 6.5" x 8"
Found - Wibaux, MT
Signed by Col. TDB Evans & several other officers. One signed off on "Character Good" in the top corner. On the back Evans signed again after writing, "Special War Gratuity of 5 pounds paid July 21, 1902."

A Canadian Hero:

Col. Evans returned to South Africa for a second tour in 1902, this time as Commandant of Canada's Fourth Contingent, the Second Canadian Mounted Rifles.

He led the Canadians during their second most deadly battle of the Boer War at Hart's River, at Boschbult Farm, on March 31, 1902, resulting in 8 Canadian dead, the most in one engagement since the Battle of Paardeberg two years earlier. The top two Boer Generals, de Wet and de la Rey, as well as President Steyn of the Orange Free State, had been in the fight. A month later the war ended...

Evans returned with the Contingent and personally wrote out in full and signed the discharge papers for each man in his regiment, when they were "paid off" at Halifax, on July 22, 1902.

Above, the original discharge papers for Otto Moody, right. His medal bar entitlement was added in 1904.

The Otto Moody Collection

The Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum repatriated to Canada - from a farm house clearance in rural Montana - a large lot of Boer War memorabilia that once belonged to 2 CMR Pvt. Otto Moody of Montreal. Only his medal was not with the lot. We traced it to his family in Telluride, CO.

Yeah but what was that about the Museum!!

Well if you must know! One Museum's trash is another Museum's treasure!

Museums, and libraries too, are always asking people to donate historic family items to their collection. Many people do so figuring, "Well, grandpa's sword and uniform are just sitting here in the closet and no one ever sees them. We might as well donate them to a museum where at least they will get seen!"

Wrong! Actually, very wrong!

98% of government museum holdings - whether art or historic items - are never shown to the public. 98% of the time, 98% of the collection is in boxes or racks in warehouses gathering dust where no one, not even the museum staff sees it for years - no decades - at a time... The hard truth is that the vast majority of it will never ever get seen by anybody... ever again...

And there's the problem. Museums keep asking for, and getting, more stuff and it just piles up in boxes upon boxes in the basement.

Every museum at some point runs out of space - make that storage not display space - entirely, and that's when it happens; quietly, secretly, they get rid of the "excess clog." Sorry! Make that Canada's heritage items.

Remember, museums have one thing in common. They always have too much stuff - but never have enough space or money!

There's a simple solution and they all use it in different ways at different times. That's where the back door and auctions come in. Or the dump truck!!!

We heard, from the best possible - outraged - sources, that library custodians at the Department of National Defence in Ottawa sent hundreds of rare books on the Boer War to the dump because they needed the shelf space for modern materials!!!

How many other museums and libraries are guilty of selling off "excess collections" out the back door to an auction house who can guarantee them anonymity? It would be horrid if the public donors were to find out that the museum had sold off grandpa's sword and medals, or Aunt Melba's plates, or the rare book they had donated last year, all to bring in money to pay for salary increases and expense account living of Museum staff!!!

After all, you can hear them protest, we already have scores of swords, hundreds of plates and uniforms, and thousands of the same medals. Just how many can you expect us to display anyway! One or two, at most, before the eyes glaze over. But money, now there's something we never get enough of...

We ultimately learned the name of the museum that had sold off a portion of its collection. Since the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum inherited many of their priceless items we will keep their secret.

Their trash was our treasure! Instead of allowing these heritage items to be junked, the Canadian Anglo-Boer War Museum reclaimed them from the trash and used them to publicize Canadian history for people around the world, fulfilling our primary passion, "Keeping Canadians in Touch With Canada - and the World," our company motto.

Behind Closed Doors: But we hear that museums, libraries, and government departments all over Canada are routinely trashing heritage items anonymously.

You can see it every day, government approved bulldozers razing heritage houses, or paving machinery covering historic sites; why would you think the custodians of Canada's heritage items behave differently - or better - behind closed doors?


Museum Politics

Another danger to Canadian heritage comes when politics, influence, and power comes into play, for instance when the daughter of the late media mogul Izzy Asper put on her considerable pressure to get a museum built at the Forks in Winnipeg, to memorialize her father and his people's heritage.

Good, right, that's what we're all about!

Trouble is there is no bottomless pit in the museum fund, and she wanted gazillions of dollars from the public purse to do justice to her father's memory.

So what's wrong with doing a good job for your pop?

Nothing except for the fact that the Izzy Asper Memorial Museum siphoned away the museum money that countless local museums across Canada lost as a result, and depended on to operate...

To make the Asper family happy the government funding for museums was just removed from the little folks across the country and given to people with clout who matter.

This happens in Canadian Television production as well, where people with influence get millions of public funds and the rest are told so and so got it, there's nothing left for you! Not this year, or next year, or the year after that!

Museum curators in Western Canada told us they were informed that their usual museum support funds would not be available to their museums. "Izzy has it all," was the way it was put to us. "And for years to come!"

To see the place where it is all happening:

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 2000