One ringy dingy: Hand’s Grocers, Telephone and Post Office, 1887

So in 1887 Britannia Village got a telephone at Mrs Hand’s grocery; just minutes walk from anywhere in the village. Not only the convenience of a grocers and a telephone, but in 1889 Catherine Hand also became the Post Master [sic].

Hand’s was at the corner of Britannia Road and Rowatt (Main Street and Sparks St at the time), but which corner is not known. The 1912 updated version of the 1902 fire insurance map shows a grocer on the SW corner, but had that been Hand’s?


Fire Insurance plan of the city of Ottawa, Ontario,September 1902, revised 1912, 

Unfortunately it’s a fair question, because in Oct of 1890 …

Hand was a widow, and the brief obituary does not mention any other adult next of kin, so to whom would the Grocers have passed, if anyone? According to Ottawa’s Britannia no one replaced her.

When Mrs Hand died the Post Office closed because the position was a contract to a person, not a location. The same would almost certainly have been true of the Bell Telephone Office, so what became of Britannia phone service at the time is also a mystery.

To date there is no known record of the grocers immediately after Catherine Hand’s death. We do know that an R.E. Rodney had a grocery on Sparks, and presumably this building was it, but the earliest record we have of him is 1895.

Further, Ottawa’s Britannia describes a store at this location being run by a Robert E Powell “over several summers before World War I. That would certainly be what appears on the 1912 map, but did Rodney have it before him, or was he somewhere else on Sparks?

So we have no idea if it was the Hand Grocers that Rodney took over, or if a new one opened in the same location, or if it opened after some interval following Mrs Hand’s death, and possibly not even in the exact, same location.

In time private phones were introduced, but a seperate Britannia exchange that would allow for private vs party lines would wait until 1957. Until then residents would share their line with up to 8 or more other households.

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