LONG SAULT – “It is thrilling for me to know that the Lost Villages Historical Society will have Gardner Sage as its new president,” said Jim Brownell, who served as the organization’s president for the last 20 years, over two terms.
“Gardner steps into this role as the youngest president ever, and he will bring new ideas and energy to the historical society and the museum.”
Gardner was nominated for the presidency by Brownell at the recent`meeting of the Society, and the motion was carried. Currently Society membership stands at a little over 300.
The Lost Villages Museum, and the Society, are dedicated to the story of the Hydro and Seaway projects of the 1950s, and to the preservation of the memories of the villages and families in this region deeply affected by those projects.
At 22, Gardner brings a strong sense of purpose to his new role. He also brings a real passion for helping to make others aware of the past events that have shaped local communities.
“I was raised around people and family friends who were very enthusiastic about history,” Gardner said. “They told stories and gave personal accounts of the Lost Villages. I got very interested. Seeing the remnants of the villages under the water, and on the islands really sparked that interest.”
His family is actually connected to both Farran’s Point and Aultsville. “I’ve got roots in the Lost Villages,” he said.
He joined the Historical Society, becoming a sustaining life member.
For two summers he served as an interpreter at the museum, working closely with Jim Brownell whom he credits with inspiring his growing interest in history and archaeology.
“I want to continue to work closely with Jim and with other members of the Society,” Gardner said. “This is key, because we have very active members who do a lot. I want to be hands on with our projects and activities.”
He also feels that he can bring a fresh and different perspective to the Society.
“Many of our current members actually saw the villages disappear. I see that time in a different light: I think that you didn’t have to have actually lived through an event like that to take a real interest in its history and to have a real desire to preserve that history.”
He is proud of the accomplishments of the Historical Society.
One of the biggest projects involved the new, permanent Civil War Memorial, commemorating Canadians, many of them connected to this area, who served in the American Civil War.
“That project created a lot of interest and brought families out to share their history,” he said.
Guided bus tours of the drowned villages familiarize people with the events. There are also summer monthly Paranormal Tours which are proving popular.
While he says that he is still learning the “ins and outs of an exciting new job”, Gardner hopes to see new projects in the future.
“I haven’t started any projects of my own that we are officially announcing yet,” he said, “but one thing on our agenda is the restoration of the Blacksmith’s Shop.
We hope to continue to optimize our buildings and history on site. We also plan to add new items and displays when they become available.”
The new president is also expecting to make some public addresses and to present to other Historical Societies as well. During his term in office he also hopes to encourage other young people to take a real interest in their historical heritage.