The Professor’s Daughter

The Professor’s Daughter published in 1997 by First Second (New York, NY) was drawn by Emmanuel Guibert and written by Joann Sfar. I didn’t find it delighted me as much as Gene Luen Yang’s books from the same publisher. This is a more whimsical topic, of course, and I did enjoy the drawings and water colouring. But I found the story too disjointed: it hopped from point to point with little to connect it or to motivate the reader to care about the urbane protagonists Imhotep IV and Lillian Bowell. Even the very beginning was rushed into from my perspective as reader.
Although very pretty I find this work too frustrating to recommend to anyone but those who appreciate comic drawing and don’t overly care for story.

Historic Trees in the Guelph area – Part 2

Go to Part One

So according to the biologists who like to categorize broad ecosystems or biomes, Guelph is just in the Mixed Deciduous/Coniferous Association of the Deciduous Forest Zone. OK. But what do other sources tell us? I’ve begun gathering references from various sources.

My first source was:
Thompson, Robert. April 21, 1877. A Brief Sketch of the Early History of Guelph (by A First Year’s Settler). Mercury Steam Printing House, MacDonnell St., Guelph.

  • Description of the maple Galt and crew cut down to found Guelph on page 2:
  • “large bird’s eye or sugar maple, about two feet in diameter”

  • A Description of the firing of a ‘wooden cannon’, presumably made in Guelph, and then of the food at festivities after the first year on page 3:
  • “These were made of beech and maple logs about two feet in length and one-foot in diameter, with a two-inch bore, and bound with three strong iron bands, generally bursting after the first or second shot.”
    “Two pot-ash kettles of potatoes were by this time also ready for serving up, together with plenty of bread, hemlock tea, and whiskey.”

    Another source I found was a government document from 1953 looking at the past and present forest conditions in the Speed River Watershed:
    Department of Planning and Development, Government of Ontario. 1953. Speed Valley Conservation Report 1953. A.H. Richardson, Chief Conservation Engineer, A.S.L. Barnes (B.Sc.F.), Assistant Director and Forestry, R.V. Brittain (B.Sc.F.), Forestry. Toronto.

  • from Introduction to the Forestry Section, page 2:
  • “Mr. J. McDonald, who surveyed the Township of Guelph in 1827, described most of the dry land sites as covered in beech, maple, elm and basswood. Where the survey line of the south-east boundary line of Guelph Township crossed the Speed River at the south boundary of Divisions E and G, the forest cover is described as cedar, black ash, beech, maple, basswood, with large cedar timber and here and there a few large pine. Over the nine miles of this boundary the forests are generally described as beech, maple, elm and basswood stands.”

  • Chapter 3 in the Forestry Section describes Forest cover in 1953 and I quote liberally from this section below from un-numbered photographic plates and from the text (pages 7 through to 17):
  • “A large portion of the woodland area in the Speed Watershed is located in valleys… The tree cover is mostly white cedar and poplar, with smaller proportions of tamarack, balsam fir, white elm, soft maple and black ash.”
    “Type 4. Aspen: Aspen is a pioneer species which often follows clear-cutting, fire, or overgrazing. It is distributed throughout the meltwater channels and on the moraine it forms 25 per cent of the woodland in the watershed.”
    “Type 24. White Cedar: Cedar is the most abundant cover type on the watershed, comprising 26 per cent of the woodland area. It occurs on wet to swampy sites in the valleys and low areas and also to some extent on dry sites on the slopes of the moraine…. A total of 9,034 acres or 25.9 per cent was mapped. Although most of this type was mapped as pure white cedar, tamarack, yellow birch, paper birch, black ash, red maple, white elm, white pine and hemlock appear as associates.”
    “Type 57. Beech – Sugar Maple. This is regarded as the typical association of the climax with red maple, red oak, hemlock, white elm, basswood, shagbark hickory and black cherry. This type was undoubtedly the most extensive of any in the Speed Watershed but, because it occupies the more fertile land, its area has been further depleted… Originally most of the upland areas of the Speed Watershed were covered with beech-sugar maple. Much of it has been cleared for agriculture until now it comprises only 5.8 per cent of the remaining woodland.”

    This document also boasts a map which shows the entire Speed Watershed area. I’ve pinpointed my particular area of interest on it and there may be some mistake as it labels the forest cover there (immediately adjacent to the Speed River where Marden Creek runs into it) as being White Elm. It is possible that Elm existed there at one time and was, since, eradicated by Dutch Elm disease as it can grow in swampy areas but its preferred habitat in my experience is on drier land. But the best evidence of the mistake is that there are certainly many large cedars there now that must have been there in 1953.

    So I’m getting a better picture of what was likely the forest cover. To summarize: Sugar Maple, Beech, Basswood and Elm with associates (including Hemlock) on dry uplands and Cedar and Black Ash in the wetter areas. But I still have more material to go through.

    To be continued

    Historic Trees in the Guelph area – Part 1

    A common wish for many amateur and professional historians is to take that special trip back in time to see what was with their own eyes. But when they alight back in reality they have to do what everyone else does: find source material. That means slogging through records and books and microfilm/fiche and, if you’re not going back too far, interviewing those who were there. But everybody has a different version of the facts and that can make it difficult to pin anything down.

    I’m researching the types of trees that grew in the Guelph area before colonization by Europeans. The City of Guelph dates back to April 23rd, 1827 when John Galt, Tiger Dunlop, Charles Pryor and several woodsmen chopped down the famous sugar maple in the rain. The site was beside the Speed River just upriver from where the tributary Eramosa River joins it. Of course, being the confluence of two rivers that flow year round, the future location of Guelph would likely have hosted many before the maple was cut down. Among surveyors, explorers, missionaries and millennia of native peoples, there had to have been a great deal of impact by humankind on the forestkind of Guelph. But forests, through most of human history, have been tough to completely eradicate. Then, in the last 200 years, we invented technologies and have really tried our leveling best. And that did the trick and to a nearly self-destructive degree. So here I am, on the midst of the end of that insanity wondering what it was that we lost.

    Guelph is in the Deciduous Forest Region but within that it is close to the border (probably a little north of it) of the two northernmost associations: the Maple-Beech and the Hemlock-White Pine-Northern Hardwoods. The latter zone is considered by many to be a transition between the conifers of the Boreal Region to the north and the Deciduous Region.

    Maple-Beech Association


    • Sugar Maple – Acer saccharum
    • American Beech – Fagus grandifolia
    • Other species (varied in numbers depending on location)

    • American Basswood – Tilia americana
    • Ashes – Fraxinus spp.
    • Red Maple – Acer rubrum
    • Elms – Ulmus spp. (prior to the disease, of course)
    • Oaks – Quercus spp.
    • Hickories – Carya spp.

    Hemlock-White Pine-Northern Hardwoods Association

      Deciduous Stand Dominants

    • Sugar Maple – Acer saccharum
    • American Beech – Fagus grandifolia
    • American Basswood – Tilia americana
    • Paper Birch – Betula papyrifera
    • Yellow Birch – Betula lutea
    • Trembling Aspen – Populus tremuloides
    • Coniferous Stand Dominants on Dry Sites

    • White Pine – Pinus strobus
    • Red Pine – Pinus resinosa
    • Jack Pine – Pinus banksiana
    • Red Spruce Picea rubens
    • Mixed Stand Dominants

    • The Deciduous Stand Dominants above plus
    • White Pine – Pinus strobus
    • Eastern Hemlock – Tsuga canadensis
    • Other species (varied in numbers depending on location)

    • White Spruce – Picea glauca
    • Black Spruce – Picea mariana
    • Tamarack – Larix laricina
    • Eastern White Cedar – Thuja occidentalis

    My sources:

    1. Vankat, J. L. 1979. The Natural Vegetation of North America. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 261 pp.
    2. BioImages Website
    3. Wikipedia:

    4. Biomes
    5. Temperate Broadleaf and Mixed Forests

    Continued in Part Two

    Sainte Marie among the Wendat

    I’ve been to the Sainte-Marie among the Hurons historical site three times (once in the seventies as a child, 2 years ago and this past week) and enjoyed it very much each time. What was a fun family trip when I was a kid has become more to me as an adult as more is understood about this 10-year period of history. The Historical Interpreters at the site do an excellent job of showing the complex differences between the traditional and Christian Wendat (the natives who lived in the area), the well-meaning Blackrobes (Jesuit Missionaries) and the lay people who volunteered to help them.
    On this last trip I was especially impressed by one of the Interpreters named Brian. He sat down in the Christian Wendat Longhouse and explained the complex position of the Wendat in the 17th century. Through a series of trading alliances, they were a powerful native people. Disease, starvation and the attacks upon them by the Iroquois in the winter of 1648-49 caused a dispersal of the Wendat south to Sioux country and east to Quebec.
    I wonder if the Jesuit attempts to Christianize the natives led to the Wendat decimation and disperal. I don’t know. Certainly the existence of a fortified Sainte-Marie symbolizing a union with the French and the Wendat must have been threatening to their enemies. Certainly diseases brought by the white man weakened them.
    What the Iroquois and their confederacy did was brutal from our comfortable 21st century perspective but they were reacting not only to the encroaching Europeans but also to the fact that they were surrounded by hostile native peoples as well. From their perspective they needed to defeat the enemies at their backs before they could provide a unified front and bargain politically with the technologically advanced French, English and Dutch. The Iroquois were virtually alone in that part of North America in their desire to retain their own culture instead of being changed by the European tide. It is certainly arguable that the Iroquois way allowed them to survive better than did the Wendat and many other native nations.
    I’ve certainly been inspired to do some more reading on the topic. I’ve put some Bruce Trigger and other books on hold at the library.
    I would like to attend the First Light event in early December too.

    The man spoke

    As he spoke I realized how much I was missing.
    I struggled to seize the moment more out of civility
    than desire
    I was tired from staying up the night before
    trying to be all that the Master Chief could be.
    But my foggy perception settled a little and I noticed
    there was something of interest being said.

    So the man spoke and I heard
    him discuss the history he had gleaned from many references.
    It surprised and excited my attention.

    And I saw myself or, more to the truth,
    I saw what I wanted to be
    in those who survived the hell of the past.