For Tim Compeau, an unexpected find led to a lifelong fascination. After graduating from high school, Tim took a job at a museum in his hometown of Gananoque, Ont.
Rummaging through the museum, he discovered a suitcase filled with hand-written letters. Flipping through them, he found correspondence from the 1780s penned by Joel Stone, the loyalist founder of Gananoque (in eastern Ontario).
“For the rest of the summer, I got to explore these 200-year-old letters, put them in order and archive them,” says Tim, who was 19 years old at the time. “That was a formative experience which left a lasting impression on me.”
So lasting that Tim is now completing a PhD in history at Western. The inaugural recipient of the Eleta Britton Graduate Scholarship in History, Tim focuses on the British loyalists who left the U.S. after the American Revolution and moved to Canada.
“I’m exploring the loyalists through a cultural lens and how they perceived their exile from the States,” he says. “Those loyal to Britain faced a concerted campaign of humiliation in the press and on the streets. They were insulted for their political views and had land and rights taken from them – they were politically deceased.
“They lost everything, their sense of honour and duty and their status as men, which goes to the heart of how they identified themselves. My research fleshes out these men as three-dimensional people, and will hopefully shed some light on how their experiences influenced the cultural development of new settlements in Canada.”
Thanks to the scholarship he received, Tim went to the University of New Brunswick to explore the archives of loyalist history. While there, he searched through reels of microfilm and found the last key documents to complete his dissertation.
“Receiving this generous award provided extraordinary help when I needed it most,” says Tim. “I’m grateful to be the first recipient, knowing that this award will help historians do more in the future.”
Established by renowned historian Allan Bogue, the Eleta Britton Award honours his mother and supports graduate research in Canadian and American history. A graduate of Western (BA’43, MA’46), Bogue received an honorary degree from the University in 1973.
To discuss establishing a student award, contact Carole Stinson at 519.661.2111 ext. 85696.
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