Keeping History Alive

Posted by on July 13, 2010 at 12:47 am.

Officially designated the Heritage Advisor for the Hastings County Historical Society, Gerry Boyce is consulted by everyone from book researchers to engineers to archaeologists about the history of the county.

On October 1st, 1957 Boyce, newly married and starting a teaching position in Belleville, answered an ad in the Belleville Intelligencer by attending a meeting at City Hall. The woman who wrote the notice, a columnist at the Intelligencer, wanted to start a historical society in Hastings county. Boyce volunteered to handle public relations for the newly formed society. His zeal for history and his connections soon earned him the title of president. Fifty two years later he’s the key to the county’s history.

Orland French, President of the Hastings County Historical Society, calls Boyce “Mr. History.”

“HeĀ  is the authority on any history that happened in the Belleville area,” says French, “he’s got a very sharp mind and he knows information. He’s got it all sorted out.”

And he does have it all sorted out. Boyce has been director of the archives for the historical society for a long time. Before the archives had an official home, they were kept in a linen closet at Boyce’s old apartment.

The archives have moved around a lot. They got a new home in a registry office on Church Street in Belleville, a building that no longer exists, in 1961 or 62. In 1973 the archives moved to the Glanmore National Historical building but the sheer weight of the books and documents had started to damage the ceiling of the building. In 1983 the archives moved to an empty infirmary and then an empty residence in the Sir James Whitney school for the deaf.

In 1999 the archives began their move to their current location at the old Thurlow town hall just north of Belleville.

” I would call it, until recently, state of the art 19th century. No telephone. The person who does the index cards for our pictures uses a typewriter.” Boyce describes the archives in their current state.

Next year they will move again to their permanent home at the newly purchased archives building on Church Street in Belleville. An archivist is being hired to store and preserve the archives in a more modern fashion. Boyce will be involved in that move as well.

The historical society isn’t the only way Boyce has been keeping history alive. In his thirty two years as a teacher Boyce taught in five high schools. He served as advisor to the board of education where he introduced a course on local history. And students remembered him.

“I got talking to somebody… I mentioned that I was with the historical society and she said, ‘oh, you know Gerry? He was my teacher.’ she really respected him.” French says.

Boyce recalls one of the first things that got him interested in history.

“My uncle in Napanee, back in the 40s, was involved with the Lennox and Addington Historical Society. One day he took me up to see the collections that were stored over top of the library on the main street. I remember going in and here was this neat looking machine gun from WWI, captured from the Germans. And I thought, ‘wow, that’s a neat piece of equipment!'”

Boyce has written several books including Belleville, a Popular History, which came out last year.


  • Brian Smith says:

    Dear Sir …I go back to the early sixties ,…To my recollection , there was a building where the Plaza is ( aka East end Mall)… I’d like to know what the building was …. It was large and looked “government” like …ALSO …About Railroad pics…There was one of
    ALL the trains lined up …. from STEAM to Turbo …like 5-6 engines …taken in Belleville.
    It was a part of the Doctors Hotel during the Lentini years…ALSO,…the Belleville Water Tower is a mystery too ME at least ….Any knowledge of that?
    ..Re building / pics?…AS a child / teenager , History was for others …Today, I have the need to learn all I can …Crazy EH!…

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