Project 1 – Arthur Gravelle

From the Renfrew Mercury
06 March 1925
Arthur Gravelle

A Renfrewite ‘to the manner born’ is Mr. Arthur Gravelle. This community was the place of his nativity, and he was here a schoolboy of ten years when the Confederation of the Provinces took place. Few, if any now among the residents have breathed Renfrew air longer than Mr. Gravelle, for all his 68 years have been spent within the bounds of “the Second Chute.” It is true that he has gone away upon trips, some lasting longer than others, but Renfrew was always his home. Probably no citizen knows the town or its people better, inasmuch as a hobby of Mr. Gravelle’s, is to keep a private chronicle of personal and other movements in the community.

His birth antedated by one year the incorporation of Renfrew as a separate municipality. His father was the late Joseph Gravelle, one of the pioneers and a member of the first Town Council in 1895, Arthur Gravelle attended Ottawa university where he excelled at mathematics.

He then returned to Renfrew and took up the study of drugs and chemistry with Davy & Clark, remaining with that firm for five years. He was married in June 1886, his life partner coming also of pioneer parentage.

Establishing The Renfrew Journal, he published it for 22 years, was chairman of the Separate School board for ten years; was a member of the Board of Education and chairman of the Board of Trade, for many years a member of the Hospital Board and some years its chairman. For a long term of years Mr. Gravelle was a Municipal Councillor; for two years 1909-10, he held the Mayorality. For the past 35 years he has been a Justice of the Peace in and for the county of Renfrew. Many minor offices in the public services were also filled by him, and whether in major or minor office he always ranked as a most conscientious worker.

Widely known for many years as a “safe expert” Mr. Gravelle demonstrated in court at Napanee, on the occasion of a famous bank robbery trial, at which he was called to give expert evidence, that he could open any combination lock on a bank safe without knowledge of the combination. Today when “strong boxes” go wrong, when their doors refuse to respond to the usual operations of combination and handle, Mr. Gravelle is often called in to locate the trouble. Sometimes calls take him a considerable distance from home. He taught the art to his son Roy, who since the Great War has been in Europe where he has opened many a refractory safe in the devastated area.

Mr. Gravelle sold The Journal to a company and opened a stockbroker’s office. Eleven years ago he went into the hotel business taking over the Ottawa House, which had been under lease for many years and which his father formerly ran. It has been Gravelle property from the beginning, long with the now disused Gravelle’s Hall in the rear, and today Mr. Gravelle devotes nearly all his time to meeting the traveling public.

Veteran Citizen Passed Away in 80th Year After a Week’s Illness
Renfrew Mercury Thursday June 11th, 1936

In his 80th year, Mr. Arthur Gravelle died in Renfrew this morning. Circumstances surrounding his passing were exceptional and very sad, for he was stricken with illness on the day following the celebration of his golden wedding, on which day a family gathering took place, together with the marriage of his son, Arthur J. He lay unconscious or semi-conscious for a week and a day.

In the passing of Mr. Gravelle, Renfrew loses one of its oldest and best known citizens, one who was almost an institution of the place, and a veritable encyclopedia of local history. Born here, he here spent his life. Not always did he follow the one vocation, but it was one at a time and thoroughness and capacity were shown by him in all. He found time for much public service, chiefly along educational and municipal lines. A keen mathematician his reputation as a safe-opener was widespread. He was a master of both the English and French tongues. Always he was a man of quiet ways. His alert erect figure will long be missed on the streets of Renfrew.

Deepest sympathy is felt to Mrs. Gravelle, for the daughters Miss M. Gravelle of Renfrew, and Miss Claire Gravelle of New York, and for the sons, Rev. Father Joseph Gravelle of Chiswick, Arthur of Montreal and Roy of Renfrew.

The funeral will take place on Saturday morning, leaving the home at 8:15 for service in St. Francis Xavier ‘s Church at 9 o’clock.