Sixty years’ worth of Iroquois Chieftains preserved for posterity

A 1999 story in the Iroquois Chieftain, displayed at Seaway District High School's 50th anniversary celebrations two years ago. Zandbergen photo, Nation Valley News

IROQUOIS — The Dundas County Archives project just took in a major donation of  Iroquois Chieftain editions — the defunct South Dundas newspaper that closed down in the early 2000s after its acquisition by Metroland Torstar.

Archives project spearhead Eric Duncan picked up decades’ worth of the papers at the home of longtime former Chieftain editor Sandra Lee Johnston and husband Roger yesterday. The couple had rescued the copies from a dumpster about 15 years ago after The Chieftain changed ownership.

Opening last year, the Dundas County Archives are located in the former St. Cecilia School on College Street in Iroquois.

Duncan has also been instrumental in successfully pitching the digitization and preservation of several old local newspaper titles online. In May, SD&G Counties Council awarded a contract of just over $86,000 to Image Advantage Solution Inc. to scan approximately 90,000 pages into digital form this year — with likely more to go in 2020. “They’re just starting now,” says Duncan.

In a Facebook post yesterday about the impressive Chieftain trove at the Johnstons’ place, the Winchester resident (and Conservative candidate in the upcoming federal election) writes:

Mondays are usually my day to catch up on volunteer work and projects. So I scheduled a trip to pick up some Iroquois Posts/Chieftains that Roger & Sandra Lee Johnston had in their home for the past 15+ years.

When we started the Archives, I heard that they might have some former copies… turns out, it was quite a story.

Sandra worked at the Chieftain when it was closed/sold, and one night when Roger was going to get milk at the Plaza, he saw a dumpster being loaded up behind the office of all the old newspapers, just being thrown out.

He went home, and he and Sandra took their vehicle down, jumped in, emptied the dumpster out, and saved the copies in their garage for years.

With our Archives now open and accepting donations, I met with them last fall and they generously donated the entire collection they saved.

I was expecting a few papers, but I was overwhelmed when I arrived today and they had over SIXTY YEARS of copies! Some from the 40s, and pretty full collections from the 1950’s until their closure in the 2000’s. It filled the trailer.

They are now safely at the Archives,where they will be cataloged, organized safely in newspaper boxes and then digitized in the coming months.

This is a photo from the pickup this morning. Thank you Roger and Sandra Lee Johnston — you personally helped save and preserve thousands of pages of local history!


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