Finding a one-hundred-year-old golf ball hidden in the Keyhole House has led to the discovery of some fascinating golf history. During the dining room restoration, an ancient, brittle piece of canvas was peeled off the lath and plaster wall exposing a large hole. An unusual ball with the marking WHY NOT was found nestled in some old wallpaper in the cavity behind the wall. Research has confirmed that it is a vintage, mesh pattern, Henley WHY NOT golf ball (circa 1918). The WHY NOT brand was manufactured by Henley’s Tyre & Rubber Co Ltd of London, England, which was established in 1895.
A review of the deeds to the house indicates that the golf ball probably belonged to Reginald Edgar George Burroughs. Reginald was a prospector working for the Ontario Department of Lands and Forests at the time the ball was created. He lived at the Keyhole House from 1907 until 1923 with his wife Augusta and their two children, Nelson and Marion.
The 1925 Smiths Falls Old Home Week Souvenir Programme documents the early history of the Poonahmalee Golf Club. Reginald Burroughs likely played his WHY NOT golf ball at this 9-hole, 2,600-yard course. The organization was founded in 1899 by four successful businessmen who were also enthusiastic golfers. Adam Foster operated a fleet of boats on the Rideau River. He was a supplier of coal, and developed an early system of waterworks and electricity for the town. William Henry Frost was President of the Malleable Castings Company, a manufacturing plant in operation for over eighty years which employed over one hundred workers. Frederick Arthur Bethune was the Manager of the Molson’s Bank, Treasurer of Malleable Castings, and was also involved in the Smith’s Falls Electric Power Company. S. L. Forrest was the fourth founding member.
From its inception, The Poonahmalee Golf Club was very popular with the social elite of the town. After only one year, in 1900, a small but attractive club house was built near the junction of Lorne Street (now Broadview Avenue) and Jasper Road. The Smiths Falls Heritage House Museum has provided us with an incredible photograph from a Frost family photo album taken in the early 1900s. Could this delightful lady be about to tee off at the Poonahmalee Golf Club? The original course was “exceedingly rough and difficult”, despite the fact that it was designed using the most level spots that could be found in the pasture. The club prospered for several years, but interest began to wane as members left town or died. Eventually the club closed.
The Daily British Whig wrote that the club was reborn in 1922. Frederick Charles Clayton was a banker, William Frost’s son-in-law, and Secretary of Smiths Falls Malleable Castings and Northern Buttons Limited. Monson Goudge Henniger was a builder of roads, railway, and bridges. Together with several original members, Clayton, in his role of Treasurer, and Henniger, in his role as President, revived and reorganized the club. Membership was composed of about sixty men and women and annual dues were an affordable $5.
A new course was designed which included a portion of the original. The starting point was moved to Brockville Street. The course extended down to Jasper Avenue and over to what is now Settlers Ridge Centre. The 1925 Smiths Falls Old Home Week Souvenir Programme tells us that progress was slow in 1922 due to the limited membership numbers and modest dues. Fortunately, a Mr. McLean, who held the lease on the property for pasturage purposes, kindly permitted the club to play on what was known as the “Tremaine” property at no charge the first year. In 1923, a lease was obtained on a portion of the property and a fence was built to keep cattle off the course. The lease was renewed in 1924 and 1925. The course improved over time as the fairway was cleared of stones, dead trees, and stumps. The Frost & Wood Company provided a mower to keep the fairway cut. Inter-club matches were arranged in 1924 and 1925 with clubs in nearby towns. At the time the Executive Committee of the Poonahmalee Golf Club were making “strenuous efforts to put the links into excellent shape” for the 1925 Smiths Falls Old Home Week celebrations. In 1926, the Government of Ontario published Canada’s Premier Province, a booklet designed to promote Ontario tourism to American tourists. It advertised that guests could play at the Poonahmalee Golf Club for $0.25 per day. The Poonahmalee Golf Club closed its doors in the late 1920s.
James R. Kennedy’s South Elmsley in the Making tells us that an early topographical map based on 1924 aerial photographs confirms that there was indeed a golf course where the Settlers Ridge Centre on County Road 29 is now located. Long-time Smiths Falls residents confirm that there are hills at Chimo School which were part of the Poonahmalee Golf Club, and they also share memories of a clubhouse on Broadview Avenue near Brockville Street.
Ted & Marion Outerbridge are currently restoring a Smiths Falls heritage home built in 1893. They are also being swept away by local history & mystery. You can follow them at The Keyhole House on Instagram & Facebook. firstname.lastname@example.org