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Historic home of Picton Legion in need

By Ross Lees
The Royal Canadian Legion Branch 78 Picton is seeking assistance from the community it supports.
“We’re in trouble,” Branch executive member Gil Charlebois told council at Thursday’s committee of the whole meeting.
Despite its best fundraising efforts to “Raise The Roof” Charlebois said the branch raised just $18,000 and of that, needed to pay a $15,000 down payment to get work under way. The branch took out a $70,000 line of credit last year to replace the roof on the aging Picton Main Street facility.
Charlebois said the work had to begin immediately as the leaking roof was contributing to further structural damage within the facility, including the walls and ceilings.
“We either had to fix it or lose it,” Charlebois said.
Little support has been forthcoming from other foundations although the Legion continues to seek financial assistance and work continues to secure a grant to help with the reconstruction process.
The roofing project is about 90 per cent completed and should be finished soon, but Charlebois said fundraising must continue if the Legion is to stay open. He urged community members to support Legion functions open to the public and suggested a request for funds from council.
Charlebois noted the Legion takes part in many public functions and last year donated more than $12,000 to various community projects and organizations.
Councillor Dianne O’Brien asked if there was a way that council could supply some “in kind” assistance and committee of the whole chairman Kevin Gale said the Legion has been asked to come back to council in February to further discuss solutions during budget deliberations.

The Branch shared with council an overview of its community connections.
Branch 78 gains some income from rentals as the branch hosts local clubs and committees, such as the Rotary Club of Picton, Kiwanis, Teacher’s Association and numerous other meetings, reunions, fundraising events, celebratory occasions and gatherings. Branch 78 sponsors Air Cadet Squadron 851 and is proud to note that the cadets ably assist at Legion activities where and when appropriate.
The War Museum on the second floor of Branch 78 is attracting the interest of local high school
students. It is gratifying to know they are interested in learning about the brave young men and women who have dedicated their lives in the service of their country. Community volunteers have organized the War Museum archives of local regiments, and the students are particularly interested in this information.
Branch activities such as shuffleboard, darts and a full-sized pool table attract a regular group of members. Twice weekly card games for seniors are open to the public. Wednesday evening bingo games are well attended, and profits are distributed as needed to worthy community causes.
Through the Legion service officer, mobility equipment such as walkers, wheelchairs, crutches, canes, motorized electric chairs and various bathroom assistance items are available on loan at no cost to anyone in the community.
The Legion supports all veterans and their families when the need arises. This assistance also covers all active military members of our Canadian Forces. Members donate and distribute Christmas parcels annually to veterans in local retirement and long-term care facilities. Branch 78 is also  active in school activities such as public speaking, and we recognize the winners of our annual Remembrance Day essay and poster contest.
While many Legions are forced to close operations, the local branch continues to play an active and important role in this community. The recent revitalization of the Prince Edward County Cenotaph in Picton was due to the Legion’s long held ability to work collaboratively with other groups and volunteers in the community, such as The Chamber of Tourism and Commerce, and PEC Parks,  Recreation and Culture Department. The successful fundraising campaign met its objective. This indicates that citizens in the community and beyond hold Branch 78 in high regard.

History of Ross/McMullen House

The 147-year-old Ross/McMullen house has been home to the Picton Legion for 64 years. It was built as a private residence in 1864-65 by Lt. Col. Walter Ross, the first commander of the County’s first Regiment of Volunteers from 1863 – 1883.
Ross, a highly respected businessman, served eight years as councillor and four as Mayor of Picton. He was elected as Prince Edward County’s representative to the Legislature of the Province of Canada in 1863, and to the Parliament of the Dominion of Canada in 1867, 1872, and 1873.
In 1878, Walter Ross and Co. Was declared insolvent and trustees took over his stately Main Street home.
In 1884, the property was bought by Mrs. George McMullen whose husband worked in both Canada and the United States. He was the liaison between the American Pacific Railway promoters and Sir Hugh Allan.  Disclosure of payments made by railway promoters to Sir John A. Macdonald and other Conservatives during the election campaign of 1872 eventually led to the fall of the government and almost ended Sir John’s political career.
McMullen returned to Picton and was involved in numerous projects with his family, including taking over the Prince Edward Railway. The house glowed with hospitality in good times, grew quiet when the McMullen fortunes ebbed, but at all times was a source of food and help for the needy through the care and concern of Ruth “Mother” McMullen.
After the death of her husband in 1915, Mrs. McMullen continued to live there until her death in 1923. For the next 10 years the house was used as a summer residence by members of the family. Then it was purchased by Dr. Roblin, who had married George’s daughter, Ethel. In the mid-1930s, George’s grandchildren – Barrett, Beth, Frances, and Mary – lived there with Dr. Roblin. During the Second World War, Dr. Roblin headed several successful Victory Loan campaigns.
After his death in Dec. 1947, the property was purchased in 1948 by the Prince Edward County Council and presented as a gift to Branch 78 of the Royal Canadian Legion. It was officially opened by the Governor General, Lord Alexander of Tunis, on Nov. 20, 1948. Tunis said it was the most impressive Legion Hall of any he had visited.

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  1. Gil Charlebois says:

    Ross again, “Thank You” for your excellent reporting on our funding plea to PEC Council and the County. Of note,Successful,I may add,to a degree.
    Thank You, Mr. Mayor and our PEC Council,in advance,for your Financial Support to the Picton Royal Canadian Legion Br#78.

    Good evening Folks.
    Our Picton Legion is still in the “Survival Mode” as far as much needed Roof Funding Financial Support is concerned.The original roof of the Ross home has been rejuvinated with an excellent steel cover(Jan.2011) and now our objective is to repair the “LEAKS” in the 2 remaining “Recent Building Add Ons” >>>some 30 plus years ago—- 1979.
    The Roof Fund Committee is activly pursuing/applying to all available “Grant” Committees in the County and surrounding areas for help.
    Anyone reading this web page can provide any guidance,suggestions,on “how do we keep this Heritage Building Alive and very active as a County Contributer? Or better still, is willing to help out with a Contribution to our ROOF FUND,please visit our Friendly Branch, meet the Members,Veterans and enjoy the hospitality, friendship and the active community /County Supporters.
    We are HERE for the County.

  2. Tabitha Kay says:

    Thanks Gil for speaking on behalf of both the membership and The Legion’s many visitors. Your hard work is appreciated and you have certainly made every effort to give the cause a voice. 🙂

  3. Gil Charlebois says:

    Thank you Ross for the well written article on Branch 78 Picton Legion contributions to our Community. The current status by the Media of our Roof Fund Repair attempts are really appreciated .Hopefully,through articles like yours and “spreading the word” in the County, donations will increase to help the Legion continue our operations and be a Contributer and Active in our Community.
    Thank you again,

  4. Phil Norton says:

    The Royal Canadian Legion in Picton is most impressive, especially as one walks toward it from Main Street beneath 4 majestic trees during any season, day or night. This heritage building would not be the same without the heritage trees, which is true for the scenic value of Picton, Bloomfield and Wellington and much of Prince Edward County.

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