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Introduction

Whether you are a visitor to our community, are researching your family roots, need background on an historic building or are just interested in local history, this website is your one-stop source of information on our heritage. 

The site offers you a glimpse of the history of Dufferin Municipality from the pre-settlement era to the post–1870 influx of homesteading families, and from the arrival of the railways to the rise and decline of the small towns and communities along its path.

You will also discover the wealth of historic buildings, cairns, plaques and other heritage resources that our communities have to offer.

Let us know of any omissions or errors. If you have information or photos you’d like to share, please contact us. Check out this site each month for our Special Features, including vintage photos from the area.

Please visit our Acknowledgements page, which recognizes the many people who contributed towards making the website possible, including the backbone of any endeavour—the volunteers who contributed material, researched, edited or proofread content, and gave in so many ways of their time and talents.

News & Events September 2022

Work Rivers Day.  It turned out to be a fine, autumn afternoon for the Boyne River Keeper’s annual commemoration of World Rivers Day. Fifty-three boaters in pirate costume joined the procession of canoes and kayaks that enjoyed a relaxing afternoon paddling down the river from the trestle dock to Ryall Park. In the picture left, C/D MHAC Chair Nikki Falk carries the BRK pirate banner as she arrives back at Ryall Park to check in with the home crew.

Back at the park, landlubbers visited displays set up by local merchants and organizations and enjoyed musical entertainment. C/D MHAC and the Dufferin Historical Museum (DHM) shared a display table featuring a piece of the original waterworks pipes, vintage photos of the river and local surroundings, and an assortment of publications and brochures. We answered scads of heritage-related questions and enjoyed hearing personal memories of the river, notably from the many folks who recalled happy times at the old swimming hole. There are so many fascinating stories out there, just waiting to be told.

Some of our younger visitors couldn’t imagine swimming in the river rather than in the ‘clean’ local pool, although recent BRK activities had made them aware of the fun of boating and winter sports. It was a reminder of the importance of encouraging families to share their stories across generations. As our favourite author, Anon., once said: “The most treasured heirlooms are the memories that we pass down to our children.”

By coincidence—if such there is—another visitor to our display reminded us why it is important to encourage people to make time now to record their family’s life stories. Margaret Ruddell is well known as an author, and for her interest in local history. She and other residents living near the old swimming hole have spent years maintaining the area. In one of our display photos, shown below, she appears beside the sign C/D MHAC installed at the site. Incidentally, she wrote the legend for the sign. The other photo was taken at the BRK event.


Swimming Hole sign   July, 2015

BRK World Rivers Day displays Sept., 2022

                            
What is Margaret Riddell’s  special connection with memories? It’s not just because, years later, discussion is still taking place around upkeep of the swimming-hole area. Given our aging population and concern over the increasing incidence of dementia, her poem “Thief in the Light” reminds us how fragile memory can be. She wrote with sensitive insight:

It sneaks up undetected
A brazen thief in the bright light of day
It steals small to begin with: an expression
A small memory, a recognition.
The losses are inconsequential, barely noticed at first.

The thefts begin to accrue. Others begin to notice
The things that go missing—the recall of details of the past,
The words lost to the tip of the tongue,
The clarity of judgment….

It’s not that everyone will experience memory loss, but it does highlight the importance of asking parents and grandparents about the past and recording life stories while memories are still keen.  And, of course, while we still remember to do it.


Speaking of keen memories….

On the other hand, we were reminded recently of how we sometimes clearly recall the smallest details from years ago. We took this picture recently of a local resident when he visited the DHM. The old Graysville mailboxes are on display there and he wanted to see if he could remember the combination to the old family mailbox. It had been his job as a youngster to pick up the mail. To his delight, the mailbox opened first try. 

Hopefully, the pandemic is finally part of our history. We’re itching to get back to recording life stories and to encouraging families to capture their own ‘heirlooms’ while they still can.

 

 

Natural history. Autumn colours have arrived in rather speedy fashion this year. After a couple of nights of frost, the leaves are turning from lush green to yellow and dry brown. Apples have taken on a ripe, pink blush and, to the delight of the deer, are beginning to fall to the ground. Even the deer’s coats have suddenly begun to change colour.

   

Speaking of nature, you never know what you might see while you’re watching Mother Nature busily making her seasonal changes. What would you think if you looked out the window and saw this in your back yard? If you guessed it’s the head of an elderly, decapitated sasquatch, you’d be wrong.   

It is, in fact, the north end of a porcupine that’s going south. He even left a few quills on the deck as a calling card. Just hope he doesn’t chew up the cedar siding and walkway boards the way he did last time he visited the yard.

 

 

News & Events, August 2022

It’s been a busy month for everyone.  We’re getting back to travelling and welcoming visitors again after months of isolation. Local organizations are taking advantage of the current relaxation of pandemic restrictions to catch up on fundraising events and other face-to-face activities. One of the challenges they are facing is that many former volunteers still haven’t returned to the workforce. On the positive side, we are finding that  our local groups are more often working together, sharing information and building a stronger community spirit.


BRK logo

Boyne River Keepers (BRK). In our May update we noted, for example, that the Boyne River Keepers (BRK) had asked C/D MHAC to write a history of the river. You’ll find our story of the history of the Boyne River here.We are pleased to report that they now have their new website up and running. The group will be celebrating World River Day September 24 with events on the river and in Ryall Park. C/D MHAC has been invited to attend and to set up a display. Check out their site to learn more about their projects and upcoming events.
 



Dufferin Leader, 1934-02-22

Local Women in Business also are hosting an event in September. We’ve been pointing them to early newspapers for ads and information on early business ventures by local women. These include such enterprises as nursing homes, music lessons, sale of greenhouse plants, gift shops, clothing and hat shops. One that caught our attention in an earlier update was an ad placed by an agent for Spirella.



Snow Valley. It’s also encouraging to receive queries from well beyond the local community. This past month we heard from a contact in Ontario who is researching former ski operations across Canada. He read our brief website profile on Snow Valley and had further questions about dates and location of the site. We were able to share a link to Cliff McPherson’s informative account in the RM history book along with information on nearby Ski Birch.

Métis life stories. Meanwhile, Chris Larsen has been meeting with key individuals and laying out plans for gathering local Métis life stories. One of the neat things about our work with this group is the fact that we are always learning something new. For example, we’ve all admired the beautiful designs and colour of Métis embroidery. Chris explained that the origin of the designs lay in European embroidery. It was first taught to Indigenous women and girls by nuns in Quebec, later introduced on the Prairies when the Grey Nuns came to what is now Manitoba. The new floral patterns were a departure from the more geometric designs of earlier Indigenous women. Beading and other materials were used instead of earlier porcupine quills and hides. For more information on this important part of local heritage, check out this article from the Métis Museum or enjoy the wide array of designs by browsing ‘Métis beadwork‘  online.

Natural history. Some of the most interesting ‘history-in-the-making’ events from the past summer have been happening in the world around us. Mother Nature has continued her wake-up calls with everything from thunderstorms and heavy rains to prolonged heat and humidity. Our August meeting was postponed when a tornado alert sounded just as we were leaving for Carman. Fortunately, a tornado didn’t materialize, but the storm did bring golf ball to baseball size hail to nearby areas.


Early morning beauty

One of the positive outcomes of Mother Nature’s rather extreme activity has been the opportunity it’s provided for some stunning photographs. Heat waves followed by cold fronts have brought heavy fog. Nikki Falk captured this striking image one morning on the family farm.

                                         



Monarch butterfly and Milkweed

Monarch butterfly. One of the more concerning environmental reports has been the declaration that monarch butterflies are now considered an endangered species in CanadaMonarchs are threatened by the effects of climate change, loss of the forest habitat where they overwinter in Mexico, and loss of the native plants such as milkweed, on which their survival depends.  We likely all remember when farmers were actively using pesticides to eradicate milkweed from their crops and making sure that roadside ditches were carefully mowed to get rid of any stray plants. Their success combined with the erratic weather patterns of recent years have made annual migration hazardous and have brought these fascinating insects to the attention of environmentalists. The narrative is changing from one of eradication of milkweed to encouraging establishment of butterfly gardens that incorporate milkweed along with such flowers as goldenrod, black-eyed susan, asters and coneflowers.

One of the fascinating things about history—if you don’t agree with a trend, just wait a generation.

News & Events, July 2022

What’s in a date? Here we are in July, the second half of the year, with days already growing shorter. The good news is that this year the July 1st parades and summer fair were back again, giving us a glimmer of what we have come to think of over the years as a ‘normal’ summer.


Graysville L.O.L. #1514 now abandoned

It just happens that this update is being written on July 12, a day that conjures up memories of ‘Orange’ parades that were once a regular part of local summer celebrations. Many of the first post-1870 homesteaders to this area were staunch Irish Protestant Anglophones. They are credited with changing the name of the local Riviére aux Îlets-de-Bois to the Boyne River, in honour of the Battle of the Boyne, in which Protestant King William of Orange defeated Catholic King James. Back in the days when ‘LOL’ stood for Loyal Orange Lodge, branches were active locally in Carman, Graysville, Miami and Roseisle. For several generations, July 12th parades ‘with fife and drum’ were a prominent feature of local summer festivities. For more on this aspect of local heritage, visit the Dufferin Historical Museum’s fine display of L.O.L. artifacts and read Dr. T.J. Harrison’s history of the Graysville lodge (copies at museum and library).

As we know from our overview of local history, the new wave of settlers rapidly changed the economic and socio-cultural character of this area. It also created tension and resulted in confrontation with the predominately Métis population who differed from the newcomers in their culture, language, religion and view of land ownership.

Present-day Impact. We’ve been working these past months to see if we can help set up interviews or gatherings in which local residents with Métis roots can share their life stories. The organizers understand the experience of growing up with Métis roots and the importance of establishing a comfortable environment for sharing their stories. Our hope is that we can all learn more about both the culture and the prolonged impact the early confrontation had on Métis families who remained in the community. Were recent generations aware of cross-cultural tensions? Did they view themselves as an integral part of community?

Personal attitudes and biases traditionally have been deeply rooted in family and community values. In recent times, they seem as likely to be influenced by social media. Another question we might explore is what impact recent media coverage on Indigenous rights and reconciliation has had on attitudes and understanding of Métis roots and experiences.

Life story interviews with individuals from such diverse origins as our post-WWII Dutch settlers, new immigrants, or refugees from war-torn countries, also should allow us to compare and contrast the impact of that early ‘invasion’ of settlers with the experience of more recent arrivals.


A blanket is added (to the horse,
not the human) when the insects are
really bad

Natural History. This past couple of weeks have seen our ponds start to dry up. Unfortunately, the resident ducks have been replaced by an onslaught of mosquitoes. One small advantage of recent drought years was that we haven’t been plagued by these pesky insects for the past 2–3 years. As we see in this photo, both people and animals are finding ways to enjoy the outdoors in spite of the little pests.

We just received a report and picture of the rare local sighting of a pink lady slipper. This member of the orchid family is said to be native to the area. As we learn from this life story excerpt, pink lady slippers once grew in abundance in certain parts of the municipality:


A rare pink lady slipper

There was one area we kids trekked to each June to marvel at a large expanse of these beautiful flowers. We didn’t pick them and always kept the location pretty much secret. Years later, I took [my husband] to share the magic of this secret place. We found that the trees had been cut, the land was under cultivation and there was no longer a trace of pink lady slippers. It is one of the saddest memories I have of the past. So you can imagine our excitement a few years ago when the grandkids spotted a couple of the flowers when they were here for a family gathering. They were the first I had seen for almost 60 years.  It was a special treat for family members who had only heard of these beauties from my stories.

But the real significance of the pink lady-slippers for our family goes way back to the 1930s and the Great Depression. Our mother’s grandmother died and Mom was very upset that she couldn’t afford to buy flowers for the funeral. Dad said, ‘Don’t worry—I have an idea.’ She knew she could trust him to come up with something creative. On the way to the funeral, Dad stopped the car, disappeared down a slope into a gully and came back with a small spray of pink lady-slippers. They were pretty much the only flowers at the funeral, and they were given pride of place on the coffin. Being so beautiful and unique, they paid proper respect to a woman who was much beloved by both her family and the community—and one who prided herself in her own well-tended garden. That was one of our mother’s only positive memories of the Depression.

“The most treasured heirlooms are the memories of our family that we pass down to our children.” (Anon.)


Recent History

Earlier news items are stored on a separate "Recent History" page.