Newspaper article The Canadian Press

After 150 Years on U.S. Soil, Artifact from Charlottetown Is Sailing Home

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

After 150 Years on U.S. Soil, Artifact from Charlottetown Is Sailing Home

Article excerpt

Confederation artifact set to sail home

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GOULDSBORO, Maine - An artifact from the ship that served as a major backdrop in the negotiations that led to the birth of Canada is about to return home.

A bronze bell from the S.S. Queen Victoria is one of the few artifacts salvaged from the steamship which sank off the coast of North Carolina, two years after the vessel ferried the Fathers of Confederation to the Charlottetown Conference in 1864.

The artifact described as "Canada's version of the Liberty Bell" will be on display in the national capital region at the Canadian Museum of History for 15 months beginning this November, part of an exhibit to mark the 150th anniversary of the events leading up to Confederation in 1867.

"The ship was a site of nation building and it's one that Canadians don't know very well," said the exhibit's curator Jean-Francois Lozier.

The Queen Victoria transported John A. MacDonald, George Brown and George Etienne Cartier and other members of the Canada delegation to Charlottetown on Aug. 31, 1864. The ship served as the de facto headquarters for the statesmen, who represented what is now modern-day Ontario and Quebec.

The vessel was also famously the site of a champagne-soaked luncheon where the Canadian delegates and leaders from the Maritimes hammered out the plan to unite the British North America colonies and create a nation that would later become Canada.

The return of the ship bell is a homecoming that is 150 years in the making, but it might not have happened were it not for one American with an affinity for Canada.

Since 1875, the ship's bell has been the cherished possession of Gouldsboro, an isolated peninsular fishing village in Maine. It's a symbol of maritime courage for the villagers whose ancestors served on board the Ponvert, a Maine-based vessel that helped rescue 41 Canadian crew members of the Queen Victoria.

In gratitude, the captain of the Queen Victoria, Paul Pouilot of Quebec City, presented the bell to the skipper of the Ponvert, Rufus Allen, who later donated it to the Gouldsboro District School Board. …

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