Granny’s Afternoon Tea

Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford – (1893-1976) at the Stafford house

Afternoon Tea

on the Lawn

It must have been quite a sight for local farmers rumbling by on their tractors, heading back and forth between the Third and Fourth Line of Bathurst with full loads of summer hay. There she was, decked out in one of her fine silk dresses, with a strand of pearls and matching earrings, waiting patiently in a lawn chair for her afternoon tea.

Our Granny came for a visit from Edmonton every few years, and we all tried to make things as nice as possible for her stay. She often worried that she wouldn’t be able to sleep during her time with us, and so, one of my brothers was always tasked to visit the liquor store in Perth and purchase a bottle of her favourite cordial – Cherry Jack liqueur, which she claimed would help her drift off to sleep at night. It was not unusual at the end of her stay for Granny to leave the entire bottle untouched, as she claimed that it was so quiet and peaceful at our house, with the gentle rustling of the maple leaves and the sound of the crickets to lull her to sleep.

Apart from her request for the Cherry Jack, Granny was accustomed to having afternoon tea. Born in Lincolnshire, England, in 1893, Granny grew up in comfortable circumstances. Her family owned two successful butcher shops in Huddersfield, her maternal grandparents, the Fosters, owned butcher shops in Grantham, and her paternal grandfather was the owner of Woolsey’s Silversmiths and Jewellers, also in Grantham. Her family summered in Blackpool, England, a resort town on the northwest coast, and she and her siblings had a proper Victorian upbringing, enjoying certain daily rituals, like afternoon tea.

It’s been said that it was the seventh Duchess of Bedford, one of Queen Victoria’s ladies-in-waiting who started the custom, sometime around 1840. City dwellers who benefited from the new invention of gas-powered street lights, began to stretch their dinner hour later and later into the evenings, sometimes as late as 8 p.m. or 9 p.m.

7th Duchess of Bedford, Anna Russell

The Duchess often described feeling peckish in the late afternoon, and began to request that her maid bring bread, butter, jam, cake, and tea to her room, around 4 p.m. each day, and from this habit a tradition was born. The upper classes seldom needed an excuse to have another slice of cake or another cup of tea, and so the custom spread quickly across Britain.

The ritual of afternoon tea for the wealthy came with a number of accessories. Fine porcelain cups became the standard, with matching saucers, special tea-sized plates, sterling silver tea pots with matching cream and sugar servers. Names like Royal Crown Derby, Wedgwood, and Spode, and in later years Royal Doulton, and Royal Albert were the usual suppliers of these fine china sets, often trimmed with genuine gold. Linens were also important, as were the types and blends of teas available, and the variety of condiments like potted jams and honey.

“Royal Antoinette” pattern, by Royal Crown Derby

There was also an important social aspect of afternoon tea, and the way in which women could entertain at home, and were free to exchange ideas, opinions, and share their views on topics ranging from the domestic, to the religious, and the political. Tea dresses became fashionable and didn’t contain the usual restrictive boning, but were more free-flowing and comfortable, often made of lighter fabrics.

Tea Sandwiches

One of Granny’s favourites at tea-time were dainty cucumber sandwiches, cut on the diagonal, with the crusts removed. Long, thin English cucumbers are peeled and sliced paper-thin. Soft, thin slices of white bread are spread lightly with plain cream cheese and a layer of thin cucumber slices are lightly seasoned with salt and pepper. Tiny sprigs of dill or mint leaves may be used as a garnish.

Traditional cucumber tea-sandwiches

Tea sandwiches at the Stafford house were often served on a Lazy Susan, a three-tiered serving tray, sometimes made of silver, or fine china. Mother made several different types of tea sandwiches – Pinwheel, Ribbon – with several alternating layers, Checkerboard – with two different colours of bread, and Open-Faced – a circle of bread (she used a water glass to cut the slice) topped with a filling and a garnish. Fillings were finely chopped egg salad, ham salad, salmon salad, cream cheese with maraschino cherries. Garnishes were tiny springs of parsley, and sometimes radish roses, and carrot-curls were placed on the plate as decoration.

Pastries and Sweets

Granny’s favourites were the small Jam Pastries. Whenever Mother baked pies, (which was often) she saved the scraps of pastry, rolled them flat, cut them in circles or other shapes, placed a dollop of homemade jam in the center, folded it over, then sealed the edges with a fork tine. Mother also made bite-sized jam tarts, and dainty Cherry Balls, for a sweets-tray that was pleasing to the eye as well as the stomach. (recipe below)

Mother’s Cherry Balls

1/2 c softened butter

1 1/2 c icing sugar

1 1/2 c desiccated coconut

1 Tbsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla

a pinch of salt

graham wafer crumbs

maraschino cherries

Method: Mix well and shape around a drained cherry, then roll into graham crumbs

For variety, may be dipped in melted chocolate.

Chill on a cookie sheet, and serve. May be frozen.

The Tea

While Mother preferred Orange Pekoe tea, and drank Red Rose brand daily, our Granny drank English Breakfast Tea – a full-bodied black tea, and Earl Grey Tea – with the essence of bergamot. At one time the Red Rose company included a small ceramic figurine in each box of their tea, and perhaps that was part of their popularity with Mother. I remember seeing dozens of the little figurines here and there, around our house, in shapes of small animals and nursery rhyme characters.

(Tea Bags were invented in the United States in 1908, but they did not become popular in England until the 1950s.)

Tea bags, or loose tea in an Infuser

Brewing Tea

Fresh Water

It’s important to use fresh water when making tea. We were fortunate at home to have well water, but if you don’t then bottled spring water will do. If there is an ‘off’ taste or chlorine in the water then it will affect the flavour of the cup of tea.

Choose Your Pot

Traditional tea was made in a silver pot, and metal will keep the water hot longer, but a china pot will retain the flavour better.

The First Cup is For the Pot.”

After the water reaches a rolling boil, the first cup of water should be poured into the pot and swirled around and then poured out. Our Dad always said, “The first cup is for the pot.” This helps to maintain the temperature.

The remaining boiling water is poured into the pot over the loose leaves, or the tea infuser, or the bag (bags), and allowed to brew for three to five minutes

Loose brewed tea is poured into the cup, through a tea strainer placed over the top of the cup. Infusers or tea bags should be removed once the tea has reached the desired strength.

Silver tea strainer – 1930s

Tea Cozy

A tea cozy may be placed over the pot to keep the tea warm. Mother made crocheted tea cozies to give as gifts, and would often inquire about the recipient’s china pattern, then she would match the cozy to the main china colour.

Milk or Sugar?

Some drink their tea black, or with a dollop of honey, or a squeeze of lemon.

Our Granny preferred to take her tea with a splash of milk. The milk was always poured in the cup before the tea, so that the delicate bone china cup would not crack or shatter.

The British began adding sugar to their tea between the 17th and the early 18th century. At this time, sugar was being used to enhance the flavour of other foods among the upper classes and was thought of as an ostentatious luxury. At that time both tea and sugar had status implications, so it made sense to drink them together.

Tea TimesWhat to Expect:

A ‘Cream’ Tea — This is a simple tea with biscuits, scones, clotted cream, marmalade sometimes lemon curd and tea.

A ‘Low Tea/Afternoon Tea‘ — This is a light afternoon meal with small crustless ‘finger’ sandwiches, 2-3 sweets and tea. This is the one our Granny enjoyed on the lawns of the Stafford house. It’s known as “low tea” because guests are seated in low chairs with side-tables on which to place their cups and saucers.

High Tea – A ‘High’ tea consists of meat and potatoes as well as other foods and tea. Families with servants often took high tea on Sundays in order to allow the maids and butlers time to go to church and not worry about cooking an evening meal for the family.

Dreaming of England

As a child, I sometimes wondered if Granny missed her life in England, her childhood in Gainsborough, and her youth in Huddersfield. Did she dream of the elaborate silver tea settings crafted in her grandfather’s shop, and did she miss the elegant table settings, dainty afternoon delicacies, and the impeccable service by their family’s domestics?

Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford

I like to think that Granny enjoyed the times spent at the Stafford house, sitting under the tall sprawling maple trees on warm summer days, enjoying her afternoon tea in our yard.

The Stafford House, Tay Valley Township, Lanark County, Ontario, Canada

Whenever Granny stayed with us Mother made delicious tea sandwiches that were as pleasing to the eye as they were to our taste buds. Her sandwich fillings were seasoned to perfection, and the small sweets and pastries were just the right finish to an afternoon tea.

Arlene Stafford-Wilson, Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford, and Audry Rutherford Stafford – 1965 at the Stafford house

Enjoy Your Own

Afternoon Tea

This lovely daily ritual needn’t be expensive, and takes very little time to prepare. Simple fillings of egg, ham, or salmon salad can be prepared ahead of time, and a few small pastries or chocolate coated biscuits will do nicely. The tea of your choice may be one you’ve enjoyed for years, or you might like to experiment and try some new varieties. Perhaps you already have some lovely fine china that’s been passed down in the family to use for your tea service. Many swear that tea tastes better served in a fine bone china tea-cup.

In a busy world, where sometimes the news is less than cheerful, taking a few minutes for ourselves with a small daily ritual might be just the thing to brighten our spirits.

If weather permits, take your afternoon tea outside, and invite a friend or neighbour. Breathe in the fresh air, marvel at the beauty of the colourful flowers in your garden, or the clear blue skies overhead. A colourful bouquet at the table adds a nice touch.

For a meager amount of expense and preparation, the simple pleasures and contentment of enjoying afternoon tea is truly priceless. Make some lasting memories with your children and grandchildren, just as I did, so many years ago, on our front lawn, sharing afternoon tea with Granny.

Scottish Surnames

Surnames were used in Scotland beginning around the 12th century, and at first, were mainly reserved for the upper classes of Scottish society. In time, it became necessary to distinguish ordinary people from one another by more than just their given names, and the use of Scottish surnames began to expand. In some Highland areas, surnames did not become common until the 18th century, and in parts of the Northern Isles they were not used until the 19th century.

Lanark Society Settlers

In the sailing seasons of 1820 and 1821, a number of ships left Grenock, Scotland, headed for the main Canadian port in Quebec City, bringing many who were skilled weavers, along with their families. Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General of Canada, arranged for their settlement in a newly surveyed area, called Lanark County. He later noted in his diary, “I gave them a new township, ten miles square, and called it ‘Lanark’, close to the settlement in Perth.”

“For liberty to emigrate with their families to Upper Canada,

and that the Government be graciously pleased

to grant one hundred acres of land,

free of any charge, along with aid in money,

implements of husbandry, and building materials”

from: “The Lanark Society Settlers 1820-1821” – Carol Bennett.1991.

The newly arrived Scots brought a number of skills in weaving, carpentry, blacksmithing and shoe-making. They built grist mills, flour mills, and established tanning enterprises. Some of the earliest Scottish settlers established maple syrup operations, lumbering, saw mills, and furniture-building businesses.

Some of the descendants of these original settlers can still be found in the region today, and you might guess their Scottish heritage by their surnames.

100 Most Common

Surnames in Scotland

Some Scottish Surnames

and their Meanings

Anderson – son of Andrew, means ‘manly’

Brown – originates from old English and refers to the colour of the hair or complexion. Old Norse name.

Cameron – means crooked river, originated near Fife

Campbell – means ‘wry-mouthed’, traces back to the Britons of Strathclyde

Clark – comes from ‘cleric’, means scribe or writer, recorder of history

Davidson – son of David, all over Scotland

Duncan – means brown-haired or chieftain, originated in Perthshire

Ferguson – means ‘with force’, originated in Ayrshire

Fraser – means strawberry flowers, originates in East Lothian

Graham – from the 12th century, means gravelly homestead

Gray – a person with gray hair, from the border regions near England

Hamilton – a leading family in the 16th century, owned vast properties in Paisley

Henderson – son of Henry, means powerful, from the Pictish

Johnston – meaning John’s town, from Dumfriesshire area

Kerr – means left-handed, originated along the Scottish borders near England


Originated in Ayrshire and means ‘son of Adam’

MacAlister, MacAllister

A clan established in Kintyre and Bute. The name MacAllister means ‘son of Alexander’ or ‘son of Alistair’ (Alexander meaning ‘defender of men’ and Alistair and Alasdair being its Scottish and Gaelic variants) The first chief of the Clan MacAlister was Alexander, a descendant of the famous Somerled, King of the Isles.

MacAslpine, McAlpine

The name is thought to be of Pictish or Brythonic origin, coming from the word alp meaning ‘rock’.

MacAndrew, McAndrew

Means ‘son of Andrew’. Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland.


From the Lorne district of Argyll. The name MacArthur means ‘son of Arthur’, Arthur is associated with the legendary Celtic king of the Britons who presided over the Knight of the Round Table.

MacAskill, McCaskill

Originated in Lewis and Skye. The name comes from the Gaelic MacAsgaill, derived from the Norse name Arskell meaning ‘cauldron of sacrifice to the gods’.

MacAulay, Macaulay

Originated in Lewis and Dunbartonshire. The name comes from the Gaelic MacAmhaoibh, which is the Gaelic version of the Norse name Olaf meaning ‘ancestor’s descendant’.

MacBeth, Macbeth

Name comes from Macbeth, who ruled as king from 1040 to 1057, and associated with play Macbeth by William Shakespeare.

The play was written in the 1600s was known as ‘the Scottish play’. The Macbeths were an established family in the north of Scotland, with the name meaning ‘son of life’ or ‘son of a man of the church’.

MacCallum, McCallum

The name is a variation of Malcolm, meaning ‘son of the servant of Columbia, an Irish missionary who founded a monastery on Iona.

MacCartney, McCartney

Originates in Galloway. The name means ‘son of Art’ with Art the Gaelic word for bear. Beatle Paul McCartney, lived for a time not far from Galloway in Kintyre.

McClintock, McLintock, MacLinktock

Means ‘son of the servant of Saint Findon’. Saint Findon was disciple of Saint Columba.

MacColl, McColl

Originated in Argyll, and means ‘son of Colla’, with Colla meaning ‘high one’.

MacConnell, McConnell

A variation of the surname MacDonald meaning ‘son of Donald’.

MacDiarmid, McDiarmid

Means ‘son of Dermott’. Diarmaid a Gaelic and Irish first name meaning ‘freeman’ or ‘free from envy’. The MacDiarmids originated in Perthshire.

MacDonald, McDonald, Macdonald

The name is the most common surname in Scotland beginning with ‘Mac’. In Gaelic, mac means ‘son of’ and so MacDonald means ‘son of Donald’. Donald is a name of Gaelic origin that means ‘world ruler’.


Established on the Scottish mainland in Glengarry in the Highlands and Keppoch in Lochaber. The name derived from the clan name MacDonald meaning ‘son of Donald’.

MacDougall, MacDougall

Established in the Lorne region of Argyll, and means ‘son of Dougal meaning ‘dark stranger’.


Means ‘Son of Duff’. Duff comes from the Gaelic word duibh meaning ‘black’.

MacEwan, McEwan, MacEwan

Means ‘son of Ewan’ Ewan is a version of the Gaelic name Eoghan, (Ewan) means ‘of the yew tree’ or ‘of youth’.

MacFadyen, McFadden

Means ‘son of little Patrick’. The Macfadyens were Irish in origin before settling in Mull in the 14th century.

MacFarlane, Macfarlane

They hail from the Loch Lomond clan from the 13th century. The name means ‘son of Paran’ with Parlan being the Gaelic for Bartholomew, the name of one of Jesus’ disciples.

MacFie, McPhee

Established on the small Hebridean island of Colonsay and means ‘son of Dubshithe’, and ‘dark peace’.

MacGill, McGill

Originated in Dumfries and Galloway, and means ‘son of the stranger’

MacGowan, McGowan

The name means ‘son of the smith, such as a blacksmith or silversmith.

MacGregor, McGregor, MacGregorhttps:

Means ‘son of Gregor’ and ‘watchful’ and was a popular name for popes. There was also a 9th century Scottish prince called Gregor.

The MacGregors lived between Aberfoyle and Balquhidder, and were involved in decades of conflict with the Campbells and the Scottish crown.

MacIan, McKean

Means ‘son of Iain’ or ‘son of John’ The clain MacIan was established in Ardnamurchan. Variations of MacIan included McKean and Caine.


Means ‘son of Angus’. The name derives from Aonghus, the Gaelic form of the name Angus, which is pronounced ‘Innes’. The MacInneses were from the west coast and established in Perthshire.

MacIntosh, Mackintosh, Macintosh

From Perthshire and the Highlands. The name means ‘son of the chieftain’.

MacIntyre, McIntyre, Macintyre

Established in Glencoe. means ‘son of the carpenter’. MacIntyre is often anglicized to the surname Wright.

MacIver, MacIvor

Family was established in Argyll, and means ‘son of Ivor’, with Ivor being a popular male first name that derives from the Scandinavian Ivarr meaning ‘bow’ and ‘army.

MacKay, Mackay, McCoy, MacKie, Mackie

Meaning ‘son of Aodh’ or ‘son of Aed’. The Gaelic name means ‘fire’, and is anglicized as Hugh. The MacKays were established in Sutherland. The Highland Clearances of the 19th century saw many MacKays scattered throughout the world.

The surnames MacKie and Mackie are also variations of Mackay.

MacKenzie, McKenzie, Mackenzie

Means ‘son of Kenneth’. Kenneth means ‘handsome’ or ‘fair’ and was the name of three of Scotland’s earliest kings.

MacKinlay, McKinley

Originated in Perthshire. The name means ‘son of Cionadh’ ‘beloved of Aodh’ (Aodh is the Celtic god of fire).


Originated chiefly in Mull and Iona, and means ‘son of Finegon’ and ‘fair born’.


Means ‘son of Lachlan’. The name Lachlan means ‘land of the lochs’ and historically referred to a person who came from Norway.

MacLaren, McLaren

Originated in Perthshire. The name means ‘son of Laurence’.

MacLean, McLean, Maclaine

Means ‘son of a follower of St John’. The name is concentrated in Mull and Tiree.


Derived from the Gaelic Mac Gille Iosa meaning ‘son of the servant of Jesus’. It is a variation of the surname Gillies.

MacLennan, McLennan

Means ‘son of a servant of Saint Finnan’. Saint Finnan was a 7th century Irish saint whose name is derived from the Gaelic name Fionn meaning ‘white’.

MacLeod, McLeod, McCloud

Means ‘son of Leod’. The clan MacLeod was most concentrated in Skye and Lewis.

MacMillan, McMillan, Macmillan

Means ‘son of the tonsured one’. The name is believed to originate from monks. The MacMillans became established in Argyll and then Kintyre and Galloway.

MacNab, McNab

Means ‘son of the abbot’ or ‘father’s son’. The MacNab family originated near Killin.

MacNeill, McNeill

Means ‘son of Neil’, Niall, meaning ‘champion’. The name is long associated with the island of Barra, and it is said that the name orginated from an Irishman called Niall who settled there in the 11th century.

MacPhail, McFall

Derived from the Gaelic name Mac Phail, and means ‘son of Paul’.

MacPherson, Macpherson

Means ‘son of a parson’.


From the island of Mull, means ‘son of a proud man’.

MacQueen, McQueen

An anglicized version of the Argyll surname MacSween, meaning‘son of Suibne’ (with Suibne the Gaelic for ‘pleasant’) or ‘son of Sweyn’ (Sweyn a Norse name meaning ‘servant’).

MacRae, McCrae

Established in Wester Ross. , means ‘son of grace’.


Means ‘son of the priest’ The name comes from the days when priests were allowed to acknowledge their children. MacTaggarts were established in Ross and in Dumfries.

MacTavish, McTavish

Derived from the Gaelic name Mac Tamhais. The name means ‘son of Thomas’. The biblical name Thomas means ‘twin’.

Miller – a person who owned or worked in a grain mill, origins near Glasgow

Mitchell – one who is like God, Old English origin

Morrison – son of Maurice, from the Isle of Lewis

Murray – means from a sea settlement, originated on the northeast coat

Patterson – son of Patrick, from the Scottish Lowlands

Reid – a person with ruddy hair or complexion, originated in Perthshire

Robertson – son of Robert, found in the borders of Scotland near England

Ross – means the steed or the horse, also headland, comes from Clan Ross

Scott – means ‘a native’ of Scotland

Smith – meaning ‘to strike’, an Anglo-Saxon name.

Stewart – meaning steward, Queen Elizabeth II descends from the Royal House of Stewart, on both sides

Taylor, or Tailor – occupation surname meaning ‘cutter of cloth’

Thomson, or Thompson – son of Tom, member of the Clan McTavish

Walker – to walk or to tread

Watson – son of Walter

Wilson – son of Wil or William, meaning desire or protection, from Lanarkshire.

Young – a younger brother or a son

Norse and Norman Names

There were Norse and Norman influences on Scottish surnames that we know today. Bissett, Boyle, Colville, Corbett, Gifford, Hay, Kinnear and Fraser are all originally Norman names, which first appeared in Scotland in the 12th century. Menzies and Graham are Anglo-Norman surnames.

Named for the Land

Many surnames are territorial in origin, as people became known by the name of the lands that they held, for example Murray from the lands of Moray, and Ogilvie, from the barony of Ogilvie, in the parish of Glamis, Angus. Tenants sometimes assumed the name of their landlord, despite having no familial relationship with him.

Occupational Surnames

Many surnames are derived from the occupations of their owners, like Smith, Tailor, Mason, and some are less obvious like Baxter (baker), Stewart (steward), Wardrope (keeper of the garments) and Webster (weaver). Cordiner, Soutar and Grassick are all derived from the occupation of shoemaker.

Mac and Mc

Mac and Mc usually mean ‘son of’.

Clan-Based Surnames

Grant, Stewart, Ramsay, and Campbell are examples of Scottish surnames that are derived from the family Clans.

No matter the origins of your own Scottish surname, you can be proud of a long and fascinating heritage. You may descend from an old established Clan, or from the aristocracy who lived in one of the historic stone castles.

Glamis Castle, Angus, Scotland, U.K.

….And if your ancestors lived in Lanark County, you may even be a descendant of one of the Lanark Society Settlers!

Lanark Highlands, Lanark County, photo: Lanark County Tourism

Good Luck with your research!


List of 100 surnames -National Records of Scotland (NRS), statistics from 2014

Surnames of Scotland, by George F. Black. (OCLC 1303608)

“The Scotsman”, McKim, 2015.

Dorward, David, ‘Scottish Surnames’, Glasgow, 1995

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Mother’s Farmhouse Date Squares

Date Squares or

Matrimonial Cake?

We know it as ‘Date Squares’ in Ontario, but in western Canada it’s called ‘Matrimonial Cake’.

There are a few different theories as to the origins of the name ‘Matrimonial’, and some say the meaning is as simple as the symbolism of the two layers of crumbly oats joined together as one by the date filling.

A Wedding Favour

At one time it was given as a wedding favour in the west, wrapped in plastic, then in a paper doily, tied with a ribbon, and left at the table for each guest.

The Dirty Thirties

The popularity of this cake peaked during the 1930s and 1940s. Mother always referred to the Great Depression years as, ‘The Dirty Thirties’. They were difficult economic times with high rates of unemployment, and a long-running drought in the Prairies known as ‘the Dust Bowl’. By the early 1930s, over one third of the labour force was unemployed, and in rural areas of the west almost two thirds of the population were on an early form of welfare known as ‘relief’. Matrimonial cake became a low-cost alternative to more expensive wedding cakes. In the days of coal fired or wood stoves and their uneven heating it was the one type of cake that wouldn’t ‘fall’ and lose its shape in the oven.

‘Mother’ – Audry Rutherford Stafford with her mother, ‘Granny’ Dorothy Woolsey Rutherford in front of their home in Edmonton, 1936.

Rationing and the War Years

In the 1940s, the cake’s popularity surged once again; this time for different reasons. Food was being shipped to our soldiers, and also being sent to Britain for our allies. More than half of all wheat and flour consumed in Britain during WWII was sent from Canada, along with more than a third of their bacon, a quarter of their cheese, eggs, and evaporated milk.

Sugar was the first staple food to be rationed in Canada in 1942, followed by coffee and tea a few months later, and butter by the end of the year. In 1943, the government began to ration meat.

Ration book – 1943

Ration coupons from a ration booklet 1940s – Canada

A Popular Alternative

Matrimonial cake became a popular alternative to traditional cakes which required white sugar, eggs, and butter. In those days shortening was used in place of butter in many recipes. Cooks and bakers had to be creative by necessity, as there were no packaged or fast foods in those days.

After WWII Dad returned to Canada from his posting overseas in Bournemouth, England. Mother had been staying with her parents in Edmonton. By the time they moved to Lanark County in 1947, to live with Dad’s aunt and uncle, Mother had been making her Matrimonial Cake for years, and had perfected her recipe.

Stafford House, 1947, Tay Valley Township, Lanark County

In the years that followed, Mother’s Matrimonial Cake would become a family favourite. Like many of her recipes, it was a prize-winner, many times over, at the local fairs.

Audry Rutherford Stafford at Stafford House, 1964

Date Squares

Matrimonial Cake

1 3/4 c oats

1 c flour

1 c brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 c softened butter or shortening

Date filling:

1 lb of diced pitted dates

3 Tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/4 c boiling water

Mix dry ingredients together and press half in the bottom of a square pan

Cook filling until smooth and spread over crumb mixture

Add remaining dry ingredients and pat down firmly

Bake at 375 for 25-30 minutes

Whether you call them Date Squares, or know it as Matrimonial Cake, as they do in the Canadian west, they are a nutritious snack, rich with vitamins and minerals, and were always a popular treat at the Stafford house.


Recipe from: “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen”

Books available at The Book Nook, and The Bookworm, Perth, Mill Street Books, Almonte,


The Witch of Plum Hollow

“Though the appellation of “witch”

may have a sinister sound,

her name is honoured and revered

in the district in which she lived.”   

“The Ottawa Journal”, May 14, 1953


witch at Hallow'en


The readings always began the same way, with her visitors climbing the rickety wooden stairs to her cramped attic reading room.  She motioned her guests to sit across from her, at a small pine table.  A fresh pot of tea sat on the table, along with two cups.  She’d pick up the pot, shake it vigorously, and pour a cup, watching as the leaves slowly sank to the bottom.  Next, she swirled the tea around, poured the liquid back into the pot, then instructed her visitor to do the same.

fortune telling room

(the attic in Jane Barnes’ cabin)

Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes was a beautiful young woman, when she arrived in North America. She left her home in England after refusing to marry a man twice her age. Her father, a Colonel, had instructed her to wed his friend, an unattractive middle-aged soldier, and Jane would have no part of it.  Instead, she fell in love with a handsome young man, Robert Harrison, and they left Britain together, married, and had a son.

Sadly, Robert died shortly after they settled in Ontario, and Jane was left alone to raise their baby.

Jane had a lovely slim frame, fair complexion, and bright eyes.  It wasn’t long before she began to date again, and a young shoemaker, David Barnes, won her heart.  They married, and settled near Lake Eloida, not far from Plum Hollow, about fifteen miles south of Smiths Falls, in Leeds & Grenville, Ontario.  Jane and David had a large family – six sons, three daughters, and Jane took in three neighbourhood orphans after their mother passed.

Jane Barnes young

Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes


Jane’s husband David, was a bit of a wanderer, and he left her, abandoned the children, and moved to Smiths Falls. After her husband left, Jane’s son Williston ‘Ton’, and his family, moved into the little cabin with Jane, to offer her support.

Williston Barnes

Jane’s son, Williston Barnes, and his wife Lydia Compo

Williston Barnes and friends at cabin

L to R:  Williston ‘Ton’ Barnes , two visitors (unknown), and Lydia Compo Barnes in front of Jane’s tiny cabin, where they all lived.

David Barnes, Jane’s estranged husband,  moved in with their son Samuel Barnes, who had a home in Smiths Falls, and who later became Mayor.

Samuel Barnes son of Jane Barnes

Samuel Martin Barnes, son of Jane Barnes, and Mayor of Smiths Falls – 1897 & 1898


Samuel Barnes was among several other prominent business leaders who brought about the incorporation of the ‘Smiths Falls, Rideau, and Southern Railway Company‘, in January of 1898.  The purpose of the incorporation was to construct and operate railways in, through and from the Town of Smiths Falls, in the County of Lanark.

The other members were James Maitland Clark, John Reeve Lavell, Alpheus Patterson, Richard Alexander Bennett, Matthew Ryan, Robert J. Brodie, Adam Foster, Robert Hawkins, George T. Martin, and Alexander Gray Farrell, all of the Town of Smiths Falls.

Samuel married Agnes Chalmers, and they had a large family of 10 children.  Their youngest was Roy Barnes.

Roy Barnes in 1947, Grandson of Mother Barnes (Witch of Plum Hollow)

Roy Barnes

Roy Barnes, son of Samuel Barnes, grandson of Mother Barnes, he moved to Copper Cliff, and was an Inco employee beginning in 1910.  “Inco Triangle”, Volume 6, Number 11, February 1947 page 12, (part one of two-part article)

Part 2 of Roy Barnes article

Roy Barnes story part 2

“Inco Triangle”, Volume 6, Number 11, February 1947, page 13, (part two of two-part article)

Jane, in need of an income to raise all of their children, began to read tea leaves.

Witch of Plum Hollow # 4

“The Ottawa Journal”, Aug. 7, 1943, p. 14


“This week, we present a story related by David Farmer, of Cumberland, who had actual contact with Mother Barnes, in his youth, and says her fortune telling was positively uncanny.”


Witch of Plum Hollow # 16Witch of Plum Hollow # 17

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Feb. 9, 1935


“He was a sound man, a solid man, a man who declared he couldn’t be carried away by the foolish capers of an old women; no sir, not he.”


Witch of Plum Hollow Michael Fizmaurice

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Dec. 9, 1933


Connections to the Joynt Family

“Three generations of Joynt women, descendants of Mother Barnes – Lera Joynt, her daughter Carol, with Susan Joynt and Lisa Joynt, daughters of well-known farmer and auctioneer John Joynt.

“I recall Grampa Samuel Barnes telling of hitching up the horses for the long ride from Smiths Falls to Plum Hollow.”, Lera reminisced.

Witch of Plum Hollow Joynt family

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Oct. 28, 1982


She predicted the return of a stolen wallet

Witch of Plum Hollow # 18

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Jan. 3, 1951


The Ancient Art of Fortune-Telling

In the late 1800s, telling one’s fortune by reading tea leaves became very popular.

tea leaf reading painting


In those days, loose tea was used, and so the leaves at the bottom of the cup often formed shapes or patterns, and these were interpreted by the fortune-teller, to predict future events.

loose tea

Loose tea was measured into a tea pot filled with boiling water.  After the tea was consumed, the loose leaves lay at the bottom of the cup


holding a cup with leaves

Then, the fortune-teller, or tea-leaf-reader, would interpret the meaning of the individual’s leaves.

Many believed that the position of the leaves in the cup itself, had meaning.

tea leaf 3

tea leaf symbols

The images of the leaves in the cup were often matched with a series of standard symbols, used by many in the trade.

tea leaf symbols 2


News of Jane’s accuracy in her predictions spread quickly, and she had visitors from neighbouring towns, cities, provinces, and even visitors from the northern states.

One of her most famous customers was the future Prime Minister of Canada, John A. MacDonald.

John A Macdonald

John A. Macdonald, 1st Canadian Prime Minister, client of Jane Barnes

He asked Mother Barnes where Queen Victoria would locate the capital of Canada…

Witch of Plum Hollow # 9

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Aug. 6, 1989, p. 39


She located a lost deed, for the Jackson family


Witch of Plum Hollow # 5

“The Ottawa Journal”, June 3, 1933, p. 16


Albert Hudson, C.P.R. Engineer, was driving through the country, near Plum Hollow, and out of curiosity called upon the witch, and had his fortune told….

“After I am dead”, said the witch, “you will lose a hand and part of your arm”

Witch of Plum Hollow # 1

“The Ottawa Journal”, Oct. 11, 1895, p. 5

“She always wore a dark dress, with a cape or a shawl, and her fee was twenty-five cents.”  If a customer couldn’t afford her fee, she would accept dried apples, or tea, as payment.”

Jane Barnes old


Interesting Career of Mother Barnes –  ‘The Witch of Plum Hollow’

By: Harry D.  Blanchard, “The Athens Reporter”, Feb. 1936

“As promised, we shall, here and now endeavor to do justice to the memory of a lady of the old school, who truly had as keen and as well trained and as thoroughly disciplined an intellect as anyone of our day and generation in our beloved native county.  We refer to our long ago departed and much respected fellow citizen, who was early known as “Mother Barnes”, who as her years increased was usually designated as “Old Mother Barnes” and who was unjustly, and with crude irreverence, spoken of by those who knew her least as “The Witch of Plum Hollow.”  The Old Farmersville folk never called her by such a name, nor did any of her neighbours who knew her best, for all who were intimate with her respected her and treated her with deference.  It is true that she had a sharp tongue, but the only folk who ever felt its stinging lash were those from far distant parts who at times came into her presence with boisterous demeanor.  She was pre-eminently fitted to handle just such a case and in a few crisp quietly spoken, even gentle words, she promptly put the culprit in his place and engendered in his heart and mind an infinitesimally small estimate of his own worth and importance in affairs terrestrial and in divine matters of the spirit world.  Such a smart visitor went away dazed and with a deep realization of the fact that here in the backwoods of Canada was a personality which dominated everyone and everything in a manner far transcending that of any of the national orators, preachers, politicians, lecturers, phrenologists and other celebrities then the vogue in New York, London, Paris.  This characteristic, and her native ability to see right through everyone, and even turn their  minds and thoughts inside out, after a few moments’ conversation: these two God-given attributes made Mother Barnes famous and compelled the people to beat a track to her door to her little tea studio up under the eaves, for many long years.

If anyone wishes to make a shrine of the old home of Mother Barnes, which would be a fitting way to perpetuate her memory, he can easily locate the house by turning north from Main Street, Athens, at Sydney Taplin’s old corner, now owned by Mrs. Avis Daniels Harte.  He should then proceed along Elgin Street, past the Area Parish Memorial Park on his right, and so along Livingstone Avenue, past the Villa to the Guide-board corner.  Here, he should turn neither to the left along Wright Avenue to Plum Hollow, nor to the left along Robeson Avenue to Hard Island.  He should keep straight ahead north along Eliada Parish Avenue to Mother Barnes Avenue, which is the town-line between Yonge and Kitley.  There, on the southwest corner is Mother Barnes’ old home, Lot 13, Concession 11 Yonge.  Mother Barnes Avenue runs from Atkins Lake, north of Rockspring, through Eloida, all the way to Soperton.

Mother Barnes was born Elizabeth Martin. She was a dearly loved daughter of Col. Martin, of the British Army, but when she came of age, she ran away with the man of her choice, Sergeant Robert Harrison, coming to America in a sailing ship which took six weeks in crossing.  Thus, having disobeyed the wishes of her parents, she was a stranger to them during the rest of her pilgrimage below, true to the then prevailing mode in English families of the military, clergy, and gentry class.  Elizabeth ‘Jane’ Martin, and her husband settled in Cobourg, Upper Canada, where one son, Robert Harrison Jr., was born to them, who in later life became Colonel Robert Harrison, commanding officer of a regiment from Kansas in the American Civil War.  Col. Robert Harrison died in Kansas, and his mother in her home, at the corner of Mother Barnes and Eliada Parish Avenues, had his pictures in full regimentals.  After the death of her husband, Robert Harrison, the elder, Mother Barnes, then known as Mrs. Elizabeth Martin Harrison, married David Barnes, an American, by whom she had nine children.  John and Thomas died in youth.  Next came Lucy, born in 1837, who married Joseph Haskin, of Plum Hollow.  They moved to Modale, Iowa, travelling in a covered wagon.  After the death of her husband, Lucy married a cousin of our dear old neighbour, Horace Brown, of Farmersville.  She last visited her Athens cousins in 1906 but died some years ago.  Next, came Samuel Barnes, a blacksmith, who married Agnes Chalmers of Montague, near Smiths Falls, a cousin of our old chum, Will Chalmers.  Their daughter, Mrs. Lily Barnes, still resided in Smiths Falls when the record was made a few years ago.  It was in the home of Mrs. And Mrs. Samuel Barnes, Smiths Falls, that David Barnes, husband of Mother Barnes, died.  The next child was David Barnes, also a blacksmith.  He went to Iowa in early life and died there.  Next came Margaret, who married Arthur Robeson, of Sharbot Lake, where she died. Next came George of Athens, who married Clare Kyo, of Watertown, N.Y., and died young. Next, came Williston Barnes, of Eloida, who married Lydia Compo.  Last came Jane Elizabeth Barnes, (Janie) born March 1st, 1847, who was the wife of our very popular old neighbour, Charlie Wing, of Farmersville.  Mrs. Wing died Nov. 10, 1910.  In one of our stories we described the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wing, on Elgin Street, which was one of the neatest, best kept and most attractive in the village.  An adopted daughter of Mother Barnes and her husband David was Bella Sheldon, who was the wife of our cheerful old neighbour, Erastus Livingston.

And now we feel better, for we have completed a pleasant task, which has confronted me for a long time.  We wanted to do justice to Mother Barnes, but it is not until now that we have been able to get around to it.  We think that our good friend, Prof. Fred Lawdon, of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board, should see to it that the site of the old home of Mother Barnes is suitably marked for the enlightenment of posterity.  Canada has never had as one of its citizens a lady of stronger character or keener intellect than Mother Barnes and this brief story of her life, which will be permanently preserved in the Canadian Archives, should be called to the attention of posterity by a suitable marking of the place of her residence and the centre of her activity, her old home near Lake Loyada (Eloida).  Thus, Elizabeth Martin, a daughter of the gentry of England, lived among us for three-quarters of a century.  What did she think of us?  If she had put her impressions in the form of a book, it would now have an enormous sale.”


She predicted the location of money stolen from a resident of South March

Witch of Plum Hollow # 10

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Aug. 12, 1939, p. 26


“She helped local police solve a murder.”


Witch of Plum Hollow # 2

“The Ottawa Journal”, Aug. 31, 1940, p. 15

During Jane’s time telling fortunes she was able to find missing objects, missing farm animals, and even missing people.  Jane’s predictions were so accurate that even the police called on her to assist them from time to time.  She even had a few very famous customers, in the many decades of her practice, in that little cabin in the country.

newsclipping about mother barnes

As the decades passed, news about Jane’s gift for predicting continued to spread far and wide, and there were often carriages lined up down the road near her little cabin.


“It was alleged by many, that Mrs. Barnes could tell all about a person, a hair from whose head was presented to her.”


Witch of Plum Hollow # 15

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Dec. 12, 1925, p.2

“They said Mother Barnes seemed to have eyes that could penetrate the very inmost soul…”


news about Mother Barnes


“Kelly’s grandmother took his father to visit the witch in 1883.  The cabin was guarded by ferocious dogs, and he climbed a rickety ladder to the second floor…..”

Witch of Plum Hollow Thomas P. Kelly Jr. 1968

“The Ottawa Citizen”, June 20, 1968


“Mother Barnes predicted deposits of silver on the farm of Lupton Wrathall, Lot 15, Con. 6”

Witch of Plum Hollow # 19

“A geological survey conducted by J. Dugas, Department of Mines, Ottawa, 1948-1949, made no reference to silver, but the department admits the possibility of silver outcroppings in the Harper area, although anything found would likely be of a small quantity.”   (an excerpt from an article in ‘The Perth Courier’, “Harper, a Hamlet Steeped in Folklore”, December 12, 1963.


Young people went to Jane, to ask advice on their love lives, and she was able to predict who they would marry.  If any of the neighbours misplaced anything, they walked to Jane’s little cabin and she would tell them exactly where to look.  Farmers went to Jane when their cattle or horses wandered off, and she always directed them to precisely the right spot. Business people consulted Jane for advice on their professions, and politicians sought her advice on elections and policies.


“The walls in the little room downstairs, were closely covered with the names of people from Canada and the United States, who had come to have their fortunes told.”

Witch of Plum Hollow # 3

“The Montreal Gazette”, Oct. 6, 1928, p. 9


She predicted her own horse’s death

Witch of Plum Hollow predicts horse dying

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Dec. 19, 1932

 “Her fame spread all over this continent, and on any week-day, a motley cavalcade of saints and sinners waited on this remarkable women. Politicians, and peddlers, rich and poor, all consulted the Witch of Plum Hollow”


Witch of Plum Hollow # 7

“The Ottawa Journal”, May 14, 1953, p. 12


“After paying a nominal fee to the old lady, McLaughlin told his story, then sat back, while she consulted her cards.”

Witch of Plum Hollow # 20Witch of Plum Hollow # 21

“The Ottawa Citizen”, Feb. 8, 1936


“Why do they come to see her?

What do they seek?


Witch of Plum Hollow what do they seek

“The Ottawa Journal”, Nov. 10, 1945, p.19.


 Jane’s tiny cabin fell into disrepair over the years, and was listed for sale in 2004

Witch of Plum Hollow # 13

Mother Barnes’ cabin, for sale in 2004


Eloda Wachsmuth Buys and Repairs Jane’s Little Cabin

Eloda Wachsmuth, of Navan, Ontario, purchased the cabin in 2005, and invested $35,000 to restore the home, using much of the original logs and lumber in the restoration.  Eloda wanted to preserve the history of Jane Barnes, so that she would be remembered.

Witch of Plum Hollow # 12

After Restoration:    Photo of cabin of Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes, Amy Mackie, Brockville Museum, Brockville, Ontario

By the fall of 2007, the cabin was restored, and it was Eloda’s intention that it would be open to the public, so they could learn about Jane Barnes and her years spent as a well-known fortune-teller.

Jane's cabin

Mother Barnes, as she was affectionately referred to in Leeds, lived a long life, and passed away, at the age of 90,  in that same little cabin, where she had shared her predictions over the years.

Jane Barnes' death certificate

Jane Elizabeth Martin Barnes, fell ill with pneumonia, and died on Feb. 4th, 1891, at the age of 90.    (Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Series: MS935; Reel: 61)


Witch of Plum Hollow # 14

329 Mother Barnes Road – Google Maps


Witch of Plum Hollow # 8

Illustration by: Dallyn Lynde, “The Ottawa Citizen”, 1989


Mother Barnes drawing 1889

obit of Mother Barnes

“Winnipeg Tribune”, Feb. 17, 1891, p.1

Witch of Plum Hollow # 11

“The Smiths Falls Recorder”, Feb. 6, 1891


Mother Barnes Ottawa Free Press 1891 Perth Museum

(first line should read, “Mrs. David Barnes…” (Samuel was her son).  This is a transcript of an article published in “The Ottawa Free Press”, March 16, 1891, and is from the collection housed at the Perth Museum, Perth, Ontario)


Jane is buried at the Sheldon Cemetery


Sheldon Cemetery

When Jane passed, she was buried in an unmarked grave.

Plum Hollow cheese-makers from 1924-1974, Claude and Ella Flood, erected a stone in memory of  ‘Mother Barnes’. (note: the dates on the stone are incorrect)

Claude Flood, Plum Hollow Cheese Factory

Claude Flood, Cheesemaker, Plum Hollow Cheesefactory, and admirer of Mother Barnes. He and his wife, Ella, paid for a headstone to mark her grave. (dates on stone incorrect)  Claude Flood came to Plum Hollow in 1924 and worked as the Cheesemaker until 1960, when he sold it to a Co-Op.

Plum Hollow cheese factory 2015

Sadly, the Plum Hollow Cheese Factory burned down in 2015


Jane's gravestone

Dates on headstone should be 1801-1891 as per Jane’s death provincial registration (Archives of Ontario; Toronto, Ontario, Canada; Series: MS935; Reel: 61)

Children of Jane Barnes:

Robert J. Harrison Jr.        1829-

John Barnes                        1831-1832

Margaret Barnes               1832-1891

Thomas Barnes                  1833-1857

Lucy Barnes                       1836-1929

Samuel Barnes                   1837-1922

David Barnes                      1840-1923

Williston Barnes                1845-1920

George Barnes                   1846-1906

Jane ‘Janie’ Barnes            1847-1910

Bella Sheldon                     1853-1935

Descendants of Mother Barnes:

Jane had a large family, including three adopted children.

Her son David Barnes died in infancy, age 1,  and her son Thomas Barnes lived only until age 24.

Her eldest daughter, Margaret ‘Maggie’ Barnes, at the age of 52, married James Robinson.

Her daughter, Lucy Barnes married Metcalfe Peer,  Joseph Haskin,  and Alva Brown

Her son, Samuel Martin Barnes married Agnes Chalmers

Her son, David Barnes married Fannie Ryel

Her son, Williston ‘Ton’ Barnes, married Lydia Compo

Her son, George W. Barnes married Clarissa ‘Clara’ Kio  

Her daughter, Jane, married Charles Wing

Other surnames in ‘Mother’ Barnes family:   Bell,  Joynt,  Cooper, Goodwin, Williams, Buchanan




Discover the fascinating story of Jane Barnes, and her years as a local fortune-teller.  Find out about some of Jane’s most prominent and famous customers.  Who were the high-profile movers and shakers who sought Jane’s advice on a regular basis? Read about a grisly murder case that perplexed police, and was finally solved by Jane. Who was the famous and controversial newspaper publisher who sent his wife to ask Jane’s predictions because he didn’t want to be seen visiting a ‘fortune-teller’.  Learn about the case of a poltergeist in Quebec, where the family seeks Jane’s help in solving the violent and frightening haunting of their house.  Discover these stories and more, in the book:
“Lanark County Calling: All Roads Lead Home”, the complete story of Jane Barnes, a gifted lady, also known as – ‘The Witch of Plum Hollow”  ISBN 978-0-987-702661

lanark County Calling for blog


Thanksgiving at the Stafford House

Stafford girls framed


at the Stafford House

Everyone came home…..if they could. By the mid-1970s Tim and Roger were both in the O.P.P., which meant they weren’t always able to be there for family holidays. Judy and Jackie were busy with their careers, and I was at the Perth High School, trying to figure out what I’d do when the time came for me to try my luck in the world.

The setting was postcard-perfect. A big red brick farmhouse, with enormous maple trees displaying their kaleidoscope of fall colours. At the back of the house a dozen McIntosh apple trees stood, branches hanging low, loaded with ripe red fruit. By October it was warm in the daytime, and cool enough at night for local farmers to fire up their wood stoves. The rich scent of wood smoke drifted across the fields and was the perfect fall incense.

As we gathered together, the old house was filled once again with our pockets of conversation in the kitchen and living room. Dad and the boys were always talking about cars, and Mother discussed her menu with us, assigning our jobs – “fill up the pickle dish”, “pour the tomato juice into the small glasses”, “fold the napkins….diagonally across”.

In the evening after the meal there were games – sometimes cards, or maybe Monopoly. There were jokes and laughter, and unguarded conversations sprinkled with the news of the day, and our hopes for the future.

Stafford family card game cropped

left to right – Judy Stafford, Jackie Stafford, Tim Stafford, & Roger Stafford (the kitchen at Stafford House)

Mother’s homemade stuffing was a holiday favourite. (recipe below) This old family recipe was her mother’s. Granny Rutherford’s father owned a butcher shop – the Canterbury Meat Company, in Huddersfield, England, and savory ground sausage meat was the key ingredient to their traditional stuffing, along with dried bread crumbs and seasonings.

Canterbury Meat Company, 15 Market Street, Huddersfield, England, 1906

Traditional Sausage Dressing

There were lots of Thanksgiving favourites – the homemade pumpkin pie baked in Mother’s light, flaky pastry, the farm-fresh buttery mashed potatoes drizzled with velvety seasoned gravy, smooth buttered turnip, and light homemade rolls, fresh from the oven.

There would be many decades of Thanksgivings at the Stafford House on the 3rd Line of Bathurst. The setting was always the same – the sturdy welcoming red brick house, a spectacular backdrop of maple leaves in orange, red and yellow, as far as the eye could see. The sounds were always the same – the pots and pans clanging and clattering in the kitchen, Dad’s soft melodic voice sharing a joke or story with the boys, and the girls talking about the latest fashions, or a dreamy new movie star. The unforgettable scents of autumn were the same outside – the dried leaves on the ground, and the sweet McIntosh apples hanging low on the trees behind the house. Inside the scent of turkey filled the air for hours, along with the aroma of the sausage meat, and the homemade rolls baking in the oven.

Those special Thanksgivings still live in our hearts and in our minds – the times when we were all together, back in the old house, enjoying a special meal made with love for all to share, the warm smiles and the laughter, walking through the yard, under the colourful sprawling maples. We were home again.


Stafford house modern version

Stafford House

Granny Rutherford’s

Sausage Dressing:

1 lb of sausage meat

2 eggs

1 cup hot milk

7 cups bread crumbs

1 c chopped celery

2 Tbsp chopped onions

1 Tsp salt

4 Tbsp parsley

1/2 tsp of poultry seasoning

Method: Fry meat until brown, drain off fat, add the eggs, hot milk, and the rest of the ingredients

Mother stuffed the turkey cavity, and any extra stuffing was wrapped in aluminum foil and baked in the oven.


Granny Rutherford’s sausage dressing recipe from: “Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen” ISBN 978-0-9877026-09, page 49.

Recipes-recollections-cover Aug 26 2020

(kids featured on the cover of the book: Tim Stafford and Judy Stafford, photo taken in 1947)

Irish Wakes

Depiction of an Irish wake – 1873

Traditions of the Irish Wake

“The terrible thing about dying is

that you miss your own wake”

David Allen, Irish Comedian

Traditions seem to go on forever in small rural communities. They are passed down from father to son, and from mother to daughter. The tiny community of Ferguson Falls was settled by seven Irish bachelors and their story was told and re-told through the ages, so it wouldn’t be forgotten. When these young men landed from the old country in the early days they made a pledge to help each other to succeed in the new land, and if even one of them failed to thrive they would all return to Ireland. They were Patrick Quinn, John Quinn, James Carberry, William Scanlan, Terrence Doyle, John Cullen and James Power.

Around the same time my own ancestors arrived – the Stafford and the McGarry families, from County Wexford and County Westmeath, and the Irish-Catholic community grew and prospered in this idyllic community along the Mississippi River in Drummond Township.

In those days it was unusual and even frowned-upon to marry outside of one’s religion, and so the traditions and customs brought from the old country remained firmly entrenched in these early settlers and their families and were passed down for generations. It’s not surprising that many of these practices were still taking place in the 20th century, some with pagan Celtic origins, some more religious, and some so ancient they could no longer be explained.

As a young girl I heard stories, mostly from my father, who grew up near Ferguson Falls, and also some vivid tales from some of the old timers in the area. Some of their most colourful accounts included stories about their Irish wakes.

I remember my father telling me about his uncle’s wake, held in the family home, as was the custom. He said that the wakes were another excuse for people to get drunk, maybe a little drunker than usual, and they did some things that were almost unspeakable. He recalled his deceased relative being ‘laid out’ on the dining room table and that late at night two of the intoxicated guests attempted to pour whiskey down the dead man’s throat.

I also heard from one of the old-timers, a direct descendant of one of the seven Irish bachelors, that the standard rate to dig a grave was a bottle of whiskey. The usual amount was twenty-six ounces and was split between two men, who dug the graves by hand at St. Patrick’s cemetery. He was, in fact, according to him, one of the two who dug the grave for my great uncle Jimmy Richards, and the lads were paid in the usual way, a bottle of whiskey, from my great aunt Tessie Richards, the departed’s sister.

The ‘Third Birthday’

The eldest ones used to refer to death as ‘the third birthday’. They claimed that the first birthday was the day you were born, and the second birthday was your baptism. The third birthday is the day you pass away, and should be filled with both mourning and celebration as you move from this life and enter Heaven.

Stop the Clocks

All clocks in the house are stopped at the hour of the death as a sign that the passage of time has ended for the departed. Time stands still for them, and a new period of existence begins, without time. It was believed that if time continued to move ahead that this invited their spirit to remain in the home rather than moving on. Some say it was also a way to mark the time of death. Others claimed it is done so mourners will stay as long as they please without worrying about the time.

The Open Window

Immediately after the death, the window closest to the deceased is opened for two hours. The open window allows the spirit to leave the body. No one must stand near nor block the path to the window as it might prevent the spirit from leaving, and will bring misfortune to any person who blocks it. After two hours have passed the window is closed so that the spirit doesn’t attempt to re-enter the body.

Close the Curtains

With the exception of the open window closest to the deceased, all other windows are to be closed, and the curtains should be drawn until the body is removed from the home for burial. It was thought that if a moonbeam shone through a window at night that evil spirits could come in and try to steal the deceased’s soul.

Photographs Turned Face-Down

Family photographs were turned face-down so that the people in the pictures would not be spirited away with the deceased.

Cover the Mirrors

All of the mirrors in the home were either covered with cloths, or turned backward, facing the walls. There were two reasons behind this custom – that the deceased’s spirit doesn’t see their physical body in the mirror as they leave the home, and so that their spirit doesn’t get trapped inside the looking glass.

Mourning Cards

In the old days people kept black-bordered funeral stationary in their homes. Shortly after the death occurred, they wrote an announcement by hand, on a full sheet, enclosed it in black-bordered envelope and pinned the notice with a thumb-tack to the outside door. A black ribbon was also hung on the door. Neighbours could stop and read the announcement and learn of the date and times of the wake and funeral. A note at the bottom of the page encouraged neighbours to spread the news. A call was placed to local printers to order formal funeral cards, which included information about the deceased, and sometimes a photo or a prayer. The Mourning cards were also known as Prayer cards or Holy cards. Local newspapers were called and orders for obituaries were placed. The Mourning cards were available at the wake and at the funeral and given as a keepsake for the mourner to bring home with them.

Traditional Mourning stationery

Mourning card – Anastasia ‘Stacy’ Richards Stafford (my grandmother) 1954

Anastasia ‘Stacy’ Richards Stafford – Mourning card – 1954

James ‘Jimmy’ Richards – Mourning card – 1951 (Jimmy, my great-uncle, was a farmer in Ferguson Falls and well-known local musician who regularly played his fiddle at the infamous Stumble Inn)


The body of the deceased was washed with Holy water, and dressed in their best clothing. There were often older women in the community who performed this task for the families, and were offered whiskey or food as payment and thanks. Men were shaved and both men and women had their hair combed and arranged nicely. Conservative dress was expected for the deceased and bright or pastel colours were not considered appropriate. The bodies were laid out on top of white sheets, usually on a long flat surface, such a dining room table. In Catholic homes rosary beads would be wound around the hand, with the crucifix laying on the person’s chest, close to their hearts. Once the body was prepared the deceased was never left alone in the room. At least one person must remain, and usually there were groups of people who remained awake through the night with the dearly departed. This custom of remaining awake is the origin of the term ‘wake’.


In some families white candles were placed all around the table where the deceased was laid out, however some families used only 4 candles placed around each of the four corners of the table. Candles were to remain lit (replaced as needed) until the body left for the funeral. It was bad luck to let one of the candles burn out and they were replaced as they burned down close to the end of the wick. The candles used at wakes were said to have healing powers, and the butts of the used candles would be saved and rubbed on burns and cuts.


Keening comes from the Gaelic word meaning ‘to cry’. Women from the neighbourhood would gather at the wake and sob. There were even professional keeners who could be hired to cry at wakes. The art of keening originates from the Irish Banshees who shrieked and screamed foretelling a death. It’s been said that every family of Irish origin has their own Banshee, and that they even traveled with families across the ocean to the new world.

John Todhunter, Ireland Calling

What to Expect

If you’re planning to attend an Irish wake, then be sure to bring a little something for the family. Food, flowers or something to drink is always welcome, and a bottle of good spirits is always appreciated.

Although there is no dress code, wearing black or somber colours is a sign of respect to the family.

After a brief viewing of the deceased, you may pay your respects to the family with a few words, like: “Sorry for your troubles.”, or “Sorry for your loss.” It is a stressful time, and it’s not as important what you say, but more that you showed respect by attending.

The time you spend at the wake can be brief, as little as fifteen or twenty minutes, if you didn’t know the deceased very well. The busiest time will be the evenings, after suppertime, between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Neighbours, good friends and family members will remain at the wake for four to five hours, and the closest will stay all night, at least one night, in the room where the deceased is laid out.

The Food and Drink

After the wailing is over, the more social aspects of the wake begin. Food and drink for visitors are provided by the family, and it is customary for guests to bring a bottle of spirits, or some food for the wake. Shepherd’s Pie, Irish Stew, Corned Beef and Cabbage, cold cuts, and small sandwiches are common at wakes. Tea is served in fine china cups, and whiskey, beer, and wine are the most popular drinks, although any spirits will do.

Raise a Glass

It’s customary during the wake to raise your glass and toast the deceased. You might begin the toast by telling a little story about your friendship, or something amusing that happened, that the two of you shared. Some of the most popular Irish toasts at a wake: “May he rest in peace.”, “Gone, but not forgotten.”, “No one spread more love in a lifetime.”, “To absent friends.”, “To our friend who has gone on before us.”

The Smoking of the Pipe

A long-standing tradition is the custom of smoking from clay pipes. These small pipes were filled with tobacco for visitors to the wake house to take. Visitors lit the pipe and took a draw, exclaiming “Lord have mercy on their soul”. Non-smokers were also expected to partake of the ritual and in some cases snuff was also taken. After the funeral, the family broke the wake-pipes in two and buried them outside.

The Story-telling

It wouldn’t be a proper Irish wake without telling stories or reciting poems about the dearly departed. Fond memories are shared and become more animated and exaggerated as the whiskey flows throughout the days and evenings. There are stories of the school years from former classmates, and stories of the departed’s years of work, and about their profession. Family stories and memories are shared with guests, with highlights of a life well-lived, and special anecdotes of their days on the Earth. Fiddles and flutes are played and songs are sung, jigs are danced, and stories continue throughout the days and evenings.

At midnight, the Rosary is said, concluding with: “Pray for us now, and at the hour of our death.” The neighbours, friends, and other guests leave the home, with only those closest to the departed remaining.

Some family members and dearest friends will stay all night in the room with the deceased. The stories and the drinking will continue overnight, and a new group will relieve them in the morning so they can get some rest. It is usual to wake for two to three nights before the funeral.

The Funeral

On the third day of the wake, the body is placed in a coffin and carried out of the home, always feet first, in order to prevent the spirit from looking back and beckoning another member of the family to join them.

Once the departed has been carried from the home, the mirrors are uncovered, the curtains pulled back, and the photographs are displayed again.

Exactly six pallbearers carry the coffin, and there should be 6 handles on the casket, three on each side, in remembrance of the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. It isn’t always the case these days, but that is the Irish tradition. It is also thought to be bad luck to go home the same route as the one used by the funeral procession.

The funeral is usually held in church, and after that everyone proceeds to the cemetery. A short graveside service will be conducted by the priest.

Rain is a Blessing

Rain the day of the funeral is a sign of a blessing, and if you hear a thunder-clap it means that the deceased has arrived in heaven.

After the funeral, everyone will be invited back to the house, to a bar, or community location for some food and drinks to toast to the deceased and honour their memory together for one last time.

Many of the traditions of the Irish wake live on today, depending on where you live. Some customs have been adapted for modern times, and some of the old ways passed down through families, are strictly followed, as they were in days gone by.

“Grant them eternal rest, O Lord,

and may the souls of the faithful departed,

through the mercy of God, rest in peace.


St. Patrick’s Church, Ferguson Falls, Ontario, Canada, est. 1856.

“But since it fell into my lot
That I should rise and you should not
I’ll gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all

So fill to me the parting glass
And drink a health whate’er befalls
Then gently rise and softly call
Good night and joy be to you all.”

“The Parting Glass”, written by Trad / David Anthony Downes

About the Author:

Arlene Stafford-Wilson was raised on a small farm in Bathurst (Tay Valley) Township. Her Stafford and McGarry ancestors left southern Ireland, and arrived in Lanark County in 1816. She also descends from the McKittrick, Waters, Doyle, Carroll, Richards, and O’Keefe families, also from southern Ireland.

Author of nine books, member of the Lanark County Genealogical Society, member of the Association of Professional Genealogists, and mother of one son, Alexander, she and her husband, Kevin, live in Ottawa, a few blocks from Parliament Hill.

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Sources for “Irish Wakes”

Delaney, Mary Murray. Of Irish Ways. Dillon Press, Inc, 1973

Staffords Funerals, website, Dublin, Ireland

Bourke.A (1988), The Irish Lament and the Grieving Process, Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol.11, No.4

Danaher.K (1962), In Ireland Long Ago, Mercier Press.

Lysaght.P (1988), Caoineadh os Cionn Coirp: The Lament for the Dead in Ireland, Folklore 108.

North Lanark Regional Museum – A Special Visit

leaves outside NLRM

A colourful carpet of leaves, stretching as far as the eye can see, reminds us that we are in Lanark County’s maple-country.  The sweet, delicate, liquid, flows from the maple trees each spring, one drop at a time, and after boiling, becomes the legendary Lanark County Syrup, drawing tourists to the area, year after year.

Today, we are visiting the North Lanark Regional Museum, a former one-room school-house.  At one time, many decades ago, this long-established building served the children from the local community of Appleton.

NLRM building

This well-kept building holds an abundance of historical treasures from the past within its walls; silent echoes of the pioneers settlers who cleared the land, built their homes, and laid the foundations for future generations.

Our visit began with a delightful private tour of the collection, given by Ed Wilson, President of the North Lanark Historical Society.  Our first stop on the tour was a vintage telephone switchboard, complete with chair and headset. This relic from the past highlights just how far our technology has advanced, since the early days of switchboards, and multi-family party lines.

NLRM switchboard

Our next stop was the Post Office, where Ed pointed out a couple of highlights, like the list of former Post-Masters, and an old set of scales that showed the prices to mail an item, according to its weight.

NLRM Post Office

Appleton Postmasters from 1857 – 1970

NLRM list of Postmasters

A beautiful Communion Table, crafted in wood, is preserved at the museum; donated by the Appleton United Church.

NLRM Communion Table

A country museum would not be complete without an exhibit showing a typical General Store.

NLRM General Store

This General Store features a large collection of vintage glass bottles.   Ed mentioned that he was an avid bottle collector, a hobby that is becoming popular around the world.  It was particularly interesting for us to see bottles from the former Wampole factory in Perth.

NLRM bottle collection

Some people say they can never own enough shoes! It was interesting to see the types of shoes that were available in days gone by, and how styles have changed over the years.

NLRM Shoe display

The variety of vintage tools and farm implements on display, is a fine example of  the types of materials that were used in the crafting of these every-day items.  Rather than being mass-produced, many were hand-made using a hammer and forge.

NLRM tool display

To keep the tools, axes, and knives sharp, a grinding wheel was used –

NLRM Grinding wheel


When our tour of the museum was over, it was time for my presentation on using Genograms in your family tree.


Genograms outline

NLRM Arlene talking about Genograms

Personality traits such as leadership, negotiation skills, or even creativity, are sometimes influenced by our birth order in a family.

Genograms slide 2

In my presentation I showed examples of how musical ability, athletic ability, medical conditions, and even I.Q may be passed from one generation to the next.

Below, is one example of a family tree genogram, showing I.Q as a genetic trait, being passed on from generation to generation, in the family of Marie Curie, double Nobel-Prize winner.

Genogram slide 3

After the presentation, the museum provided some tasty refreshments, and many returned to the sweets table more than once to sample the variety of tasty offerings.  Many stopped by my book table, and picked up a signed copy for themselves, or for gifts.  It was a pleasure to chat with so many, and learn a bit about their family histories.

NLRM Arlene at book table

Before we headed home, Brian Tackaberry, of the North Lanark Historical Society, kindly presented me with a special gift, and thanked me for my visit to the museum.

NLRM with Brian

What a lovely visit to the museum!  Their collection is truly impressive. They are preserving precious artifacts from the past for future generations, and have displayed them generously, for all to enjoy.

Many thanks to Brian Tackaberry, Ed Wilson, and to all of the members of the North Lanark Historical Society for your kind hospitality.  It was a pleasure meeting you, and also to meet Melissa Alexander who has assisted me in the past with research. A special thanks to former neighbour Grant Chaplin for stopping by!

Thanks also to those of you who came to hear my presentation, and to stop by my book table.  It was a packed house, and so nice to see the extra chairs being brought in, and fill the space to capacity.  Thank-you!

Until next time…..

maple leaves for NLRM

(our visit to the museum took place in October 2017)

The museum is currently open by appointment.

For more information on the North Lanark Regional Museum and links to their virtual exhibit:


Irish Names & Surnames Explained

Traditional Irish Naming Patterns

Naming patterns are important when researching your family history. It has been a long standing custom in families around the world to name children after fathers, mothers, grandparents, important ancestors, relatives and friends. Middle names were often used for the preservation of a mother’s maiden name or the name of a prominent ancestor in that family. Names are very useful in tracking down lineages when there is little or no paper trail.

Names can give you clues to a person’s lineage, but other sources are still required in order to have genealogical proof. The Irish used a very particular naming pattern for children for children born beginning in the mid to late 1700s and through to the early to mid 1900s. It is important to note that not all Irish families followed the pattern although enough of them did that you can often use first names to learn more about an Irish ancestor’s unknown lineage. As with anything in genealogy, this should be proven with supporting documention, but Irish naming patterns are often helpful while building your family tree.

Traditional Irish Naming Pattern:

Naming Pattern Exceptions:

Naming patterns were sometimes affected by deaths in infancy. When a specific name was considered important within the family, the name would usually be given once again, to the next-born infant. In records, there are sometimes two or more children of the same name, baptized within the same family. Each baptism of this name, usually tells of the death of the older child of the same name.

Another example when the naming pattern is altered is when a child was stillborn, or very ill when born, or dying. Sadly, the child was baptized using a less-important family name, but the name of the paternal grandfather (or important ancestor) might be ‘reserved’ for a live birth, or for a child who was expected to live.

Surname Prefixes

Irish surnames of Gaelic origin were more common until Ireland fell under English rule. This led to the use of English versions of traditional Irish surnames. Many of these traditional names had prefixes:

“O”, “Fitz”, “Mc” and “Mac”

Mac or Mc – meaning “son of”

O – meaning “grandson of”

Fitz – meaning “son of” was sometimes substituted for the prefix ‘Mac’ or ‘Mc’ by many of the descendants of Anglo-Norman invaders.

For a period of time, English law in Ireland forbade the use of “O”, “Mc” and “Mac”, although “Fitz” was allowed. When researching your family name be aware that a name like Connor could have once been O’Connor.

The prefix O’ is unique to Ireland. It originates from the Gaelic word “ua,” meaning “grandson of.” Any name beginning with O’ is without question an Irish patronymic (from a male ancestor). The O’ surnames began in the 11th century in Ireland, before the Mc/Mac surnames. Examples of these surnames are O’Sullivan, O’Connor, O’Brien, and O’Leary.

Mc or Mac?

There is a myth about Scottish and Irish surnames that begin with the prefix Mac- or Mc-, that Mac- (as in MacDonald – son of Donald) designates a Scottish and Protestant heritage, where as Mc- (as in McCormick – son of Cormac) denotes an Irish Catholic family name. In fact there is no difference between these two prefixes. They may be either Irish or Scottish in origin and spelled different ways, with either prefix, even within the same family.

Mac- and Mc- both come from the Gaelic word “meic,” meaning “son of.”


In the early days of Irish settlement in Canada, such a large number of Irish names carried these prefixes that it became an ethnic slur for the Irish people to be called: “micks.”

Surnames that Describe the Profession of the Father

Some names beginning with Mc or Mac described the profession of the father.

MacMaster -“son of a master or religious leader”

Macpherson – “son of the parson,”

MacWard – “son of a poet or scribe,”

MacKenzie – “son of the fair one,”

MacDuff – “son of the dark one,”

McDowell – “son of the dark stranger.”.

Some families chose to conform to English laws, and some didn’t, which led to surname variations within the same family. Often Irish who emigrated dropped the prefixes when they arrived at their new countries of residence.

Top 200 Surnames in Ireland

Given Names and Meanings –


Given Names and Meanings


Researching Your Irish Roots

Don’t forget Nicknames

Most given names in Ireland have at least one associated nickname. When names are recorded in birth, marriage, and death, or in church records, a nickname may have been used instead of the given name (Kate for Catherine or Billy for William, for example). Many nicknames are easy to spot, but others are less well known. For example, the nicknames used for Bridget include Bedelia, Bess, Bessie, Biddy, Breda, Briddy, Bride, or Bridie.

Nicknames may also lead the researcher astray if incorrect assumptions are used. While some might assume that Anty is a nickname for Anthony (a male), it is, in fact, more likely a nickname for Anastasia (a female). Lou is both a nickname for male children named Aloysius, Lewis/Louis, and Ulysses as well as female children names Louise or Lucinda or Mary-Louise, or Mary-Lou.

In conclusion, while naming patterns weren’t always followed exactly (for example if there were only one or two children, the father’s relatives always took precedence in the naming of the children), they were usually followed closely.

Remember, if you have an Irish ancestor, and don’t know anything of their parentage, you can use naming patterns to help in your search.

Best of luck researching your Irish ancestry!


  • De Breffny, Brian. Guide on Irish Christian Names and their English equivalents. Article Christian Names in Ireland found for years 1670-1850. The Irish Ancestor, Vol.1 No. 1, pages 34-40.
  • Coghlan, Ronan. Irish First Names. Belfast, Ireland: Appletree Press, 1985.
  • Ó Corráin, Donnchadh, and Fidelma Maguire. Irish Names. 2nd ed. 1990. Reprint. Dublin, Ireland: The Lilliput Press, 1992.
  • MacLysaght, Edward. The Surnames of Ireland. 6th ed. Dublin, Ireland: Irish Academic Press, 1985.
  • Matheson, Sir Robert E. Special Report on Surnames in Ireland [Together with] Varieties and Synonyms of Surnames and Christian Names in Ireland. 1901. Reprint. Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1968.

Lanark County Quilting Legends – of the 1950s, 60s and 70s

Quilt quote

Almost every family had one – a quilter; someone who could take random bits of cloth, even scraps or rags, and turn them into a work of art. They were the creative ones; usually the quiet ones, sitting off in a corner, away from the crowds, working on their quilting blocks, embellishing their squares of cloth with embroidery, and intricate stitchery. They were the serious ones, labouring with precision, ensuring that their stitches were evenly spaced, even in places hidden deep within the seams of the cloth.

Ladies quilting # 2Ladies quilting # 3quilts at the fair

These quilters were the unsung heroes of home crafting. Blessed with nimble fingers, tireless hands, and meticulous sight, they turned the family’s cast-off clothing and abandoned fabrics into beautifully designed bedcovers; fit for the coldest Eastern Ontario winters. Often young, inexperienced hands worked alongside older, farm-weathered hands, at community quilting bees. The older ones were the masters, the coaches, and the instructors, guiding the young ones on the finer points of their art.

quilting at the frame

Pattern:  Parasol Ladies

umbrella ladies quilt

Pattern:  Log Cabin

log cabin pattern

Pattern:  Double Wedding Ring

Double Wedding Ring

Many of these artisans were sociable, and organized quilting bees, welcoming all of the ladies in the neighbourhood. They assembled quilting frames, and set up sturdy, wooden chairs all around, inviting the experienced and the not-so-experienced, to join the circle.

ladies around quilting frame

There were lively conversations along with occasional laughter and story-telling, mixed in with the stitching. The quilting bees always ended on a high note – with hot tea poured lovingly into delicate china cups, served alongside decadent homemade cookies and squares.

cookie and tea

A few quilted on their own, but many were members of local churches, community organizations, or Womens’ Institutes.


Eleanor Conboy’s Quilts

Eleanor Conboy  (Eleanor was the daughter of George Garrett and Edith Armstrong)

Eleanor Conboy (1922-2015) was an avid quilter, and good friend to my mother.  The Conboy family farm was not far from the Stafford home on the Third Line of Bathurst (Tay Valley Township) Eleanor Conboy and Audry Stafford often worked at the quilting ‘bees’ together, at neighbour Lottie (Charlotte Keays Jordan) Jordan’s house.

Many thanks to Trina McMillan Conboy for sharing the photos below, of some of Eleanor’s beautiful quilts!

Eleanor Conboy's quilt # 1     Eleanor Conboy's quilt # 2

Eleanor Conboy's quilt # 3   Eleanor Conboy's quilt # 4

Eleanor Conboy's quilt # 6   Eleanor Conboy's quilt # 7


200th Anniversary Quilt- by the Lanark County Quilters Guild

This quilt was designed and produced by the Lanark County Quilters Guild to commemorate the 200th Anniversary of the pioneer settlement, and features a map of Lanark County.

200th Anniversary quilt

200th Anniversary quilt detail

Detail of 200th Anniversary Quilt, photo taken at the 200th Anniversary event for Tay Valley Township

The Shamrock Quilt of Ferguson Falls

One of the most beautiful quilts in Lanark County, was crafted by the ladies of Ferguson Falls, and features many of the local names on each square.  Known as ‘The Shamrock Quilt’, it was donated to the Lanark Museum, and may be seen there, one of their treasured artifacts.

shamrock quilt

The Shamrock Quilt,  from the collection of the Lanark Museum, Lanark, Ontario.

Shamrock Quilt July 2018 Lanark Museum

Arlene Stafford-Wilson, with The Shamrock Quilt, Lanark Museum, Lanark village,  July 2018

Some of the most active quilting groups

in the 1950s, 60s and 70s in Lanark County:

Balderson Women’s Institute

Bethel Women’s Institute

Calvin United Church – Calvinettes, and U.C.W

Drummond Centre Women’s Institute

Elphin community quilters

Flower Station community quilters

Glad Tidings Tabernacle Church, Ladies group, Perth, ON

Harper Women’s Institute

Hopetown community quilters

Innisville – St. John’s Women’s Association

Lanark – Catholic Women’s League

Maberly United Church W.A.

McMartin House, Perth, ON

St. John’s Church Perth – Catholic Women’s League, Perth, ON

Port Elmsley Women’s Institute

Rideau Ferry United Church Women’s Group

Salvation Army Church, Perth, ON

St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church Women’s Missionary Society, Perth, ON

St. James Anglican Church, Perth, ON

St. Paul’s United Church, Ladies group, Perth, ON

Watson’s Corners U.C.W.


The highlight of the year for many in farm country, was to enter quilts, sewing, needlepoint and other handy-work into the local fairs with the hopes of winning a first prize, second prize or third prize ribbon.

Fair quilt display

Many of us who lived in rural areas looked forward each year to the local agricultural fairs.  Our mother, Audry Stafford judged the quilts at area fairs, and those as far away as Madoc and Tweed.

Perth Fair logo on blue

prize ribbons
Audry Stafford judging a quilt

(missing text – First Place awarded to Gladys Haughian)

Whether quilts were entered in the local Fairs, raffled as church fundraisers, or created to keep family members warm on those cold Lanark County winter nights, – they each had their own unique beauty.

Some area quilters were known for their meticulous stitching, their creative designs, or how quickly they could complete their work.

Some quilters were so skilled that they even made the headlines of the local newspapers.


The Port Elmsley Womens Institute

Completes Quilt at One Sitting  ! ! !

Port Elmsley quilters complete


Do you remember some of Lanark County’s Quilters

of the 1950s, 60s and 70s?

Mrs. Ralph Affleck

Mrs. Alexander

Mrs. Elsie Anderson

Mrs. Ralph Barrie

Mrs. E. Benedict

Miss Jean Blair

Mrs. Bothwell

Mrs. Boyce

Mrs. F.J. Byrne

Mrs. Mildred Briggs

Isobel Cameron

Lillian Cameron

Marguerite Cameron

Mrs. Stewart Cameron

Mrs. Walter Cameron

Mrs. Joseph Chamney

Mrs. Charlton

Mrs. R. Charlton

Mrs. Churchill

Eleanor Conboy

Mrs. Conlin

Mrs. Cooper

Mrs. Charles Crampton

Mrs. George Crampton

Mrs. Clarke Devlin

Mrs. Cecil Dobbie

Mrs. Hilda Donnelly

Mrs. M.J. Donohoe

Mrs. Barbara Dowdall

Mrs. Betty Dowdall

Mrs. H. Duby

Mrs. Clarence Ennis

Mrs. H. Ferguson

Mrs. Dave Foster

Isobel Foster

Marlene Foster

Mrs. B. Fournier

Heather Fournier

Mrs. M.J. Furlong

Maria Fyfe

Miss Mae Gallinger

Mrs. Gamble

Mrs. Clifford Gardiner

Mrs. Lillian Gardiner

Mrs. Oliver Gardiner

Mrs. Thomas Gardiner

Mrs. Adam Geddes

Mrs. Aldon Gray

Mrs. Beverly Hall

Mrs. Earl Hallaren

Mrs. Charles Hermer

Mrs. George Ireton

Mrs. A. Ireton

Mrs. Harry Ireton

Joan Irvine

Mrs. James

Charlotte ‘Lottie’ Keays Jordan

Marion Jordan

Mary Jordan

Mrs. Edward Joynt

Mrs. Kennedy

Mrs. W.P. Kilfoyle

Mrs. Keith Knapp

Mrs. James King

Mrs. Violet Kirkham

Ethel Korry

Mrs. John Larmon

Mrs. Manion

Mrs. C. Matheson

Eleanor McInnis

Mrs. Alex McIntyre

Mrs. McPhee

Mrs. Charles Miller

Edith Miller

Mrs. Ernest Miller

Mrs. Forrest Miller

Mary Miller

May Miller

Mrs. Robert Moodie

Mrs. Eleanor Munroe

Miss Ursula Murphy

Mabel Palmer

Mrs. John Pennett

Mrs. Thomas Phelan

Mrs. Lester Polk

Mary Popplewell

Mrs. Ed Rathwell

Mrs. John Reid

Christine Rice

Florence Rice

Miss Jean Riddell

Mrs. Norman Richardson

Jean Scott

Dorothy Scragg

Eleanor Senkler

Mrs. H. Shaw

Mrs. A.M. Sheppard

Miss Elspeth Smith

Mrs. Somerville

Miss Spence

Audry Stafford

Mrs. Frank Stead

Mrs. Harold Stead

Mary Stewart

Mrs. Stokes

Mrs. E. Thompson

Madge Thompson

Bertha Toutant

Mrs. John Vanden Bosch

Mrs. George Wales

Mrs. Mabel Walroth

Mrs. H. Warwick

Mrs. Sadie Watson

Mrs. Allan Weidenmaier

Mrs. Fred Weidenmaier

Mrs. W.G. Weir

Mrs. Wilfred Wesley

Alice White

Mrs. J. White

Mrs. Roy White

Mrs. Murray Wilson


quilt pattern book

vintage quilt books

Quilt pattern in Perth Courier


15 Characteristics

of an outstanding Quilter:

  1. They possess the patience and commitment to complete a long-term project such as a quilt
  2. They have the skill and precision to produce work with fine craftsmanship
  3. They have an artistic eye for good design
  4. They have tremendous self discipline to produce consistent stitching throughout the piece
  5. They have a natural gift of creativity and originality
  6. They have a rare ability to see connections in patterns, and to draw ideas from many sources
  7. They possess a high level of esthetic skills in order to situate patterns to set them off to their advantage
  8. They have the ability to focus on solutions, not on regrets. When they make mistakes, they learn from experience
  9. They experiment with open minds in order to improve
  10. They meaningfully communicate with others in the quilting circle to share ideas
  11. They create designs that have the power to withstand time
  12. Their works are easily distinguished from others of their own time
  13. They have the ability to portray light, perspective, color and space
  14. They teach others and pass down their knowledge
  15. They inspire others to be the best they can be!

These quilting legends of Lanark County passed down their knowledge, and left their legacy in the form of the beautiful quilts that they produced. They were the gifted artisans of their time, and will be remembered for their delicate stitching and colourful designs, works of art that will be handed down through families, for generations to come.

***If you remember a Lanark County quilter, or a quilting organization, (1950s-70s) that has not been mentioned in this article, please send their name in the ‘comments’ box below, and they will be added.

To view additional squares of The Shamrock Quilt, photographed at the Lanark Museum:

The Shamrock Quilt at the Lanark Museum

To learn more about the 200th Anniversary Quilt produced by the Lanark County Quilters Guild in 2016 and the celebration in Tay Valley Township:

200th Anniversary Quilt – 2016

To discover more about quilting in the 1950s, 60s and 70s in Lanark County, read “The Quilting Queens of Lanark County”, from “Lanark County Connections – Memories Among the Maples”  ISBN 978-0-9877026-47

LC Connections

Election Night in DeWitt’s Corners 1963


Our parents always dressed up to vote.  In those days, it was customary for men to wear a hat with their dress clothes, and so, along with his best suit, our Dad always wore his hat, and Mother wore her good ‘church’ dress, to our polling station at Cavanagh’s General store, on voting night.

Mother and Dad at Stafford House 1968

Tim ‘Tib’ Stafford, and Audry Rutherford Stafford 

Our parents seldom voted for the same party, and lively discussions were commonplace at our house, in the weeks leading up to the election. It was very important to them to exercise their democratic right to vote.  Both veterans of WWII, they were all too aware of many other countries in the world who did not enjoy this privilege.

Mother and Dad Remembrance Day Photo

                                                                                                                      from “Perth Remembered”

Our father, having grown up near Ferguson Falls, Lanark County, in keeping with the long-held values of his community, usually voted for the Conservatives.  My mother, on the other hand, seeking ideas and policies which aligned more with her particular vision of things, split her vote between the Liberals and the NDP, going back and forth between the two parties throughout the years.

As they left our house on many election evenings, dressed in their best, my father would always turn, tip his hat to us, with a mischievous smile and a wink, as they walked out the door, and he’d say, “I’m going to cancel your mother’s vote now.”

Stafford house for DeWitt's election blog

Stafford House, Third Line of Bathurst, (Tay Valley Township) Lanark County, ON, Canada

In the years that followed we would benefit greatly from hearing their debates in the weeks and months leading up to an election. We listened, as children will do, while our parents talked softly, or sometimes debated passionately, over a number of issues ranging from local policies affecting farmers and rural communities, to views on national matters affecting the entire country. It was a valuable education for us to hear these two WWII veterans discuss democracy and how voting was a privilege for Canadians, won through horrific battles fought on foreign soil. We also heard heart-wrenching stories about their friends and fellow soldiers whose young lives were cut short, never returning home to the green pastures and rolling hills of Lanark County.

Election banner 1963


DeWitt's Corners polling station

1963 Voter’s List

DeWitt's Corners Voter's List 1963DeWitt's Corners voter's list 2 of 3DeWitt's Corners voter's list 3 of 4DeWitt's Corners voter's list 4 of 4


eligible voters Lanark County 1963

voters in Lanark County 1963

                                                                                                    March 28, 1963, p. 15, “The Perth Courier”

Who were the candidates…….and what were the issues of those times?

(from “The Perth Courier” -listed in the order they appeared in the paper)

George Doucett, PC

George Doucett

Occupation:  Farmer

Doucett owned a farm, one mile from Carleton Place, in Ramsay Township, and also owned an insurance business

What were his issues?

-Every worker should have two weeks paid holiday

-New jobs to reduce unemployment

Art Stewart, Liberal

Art Stewart

Occupation: Farmer, in Pakenham

What were his issues:

-Strengthen economics, and boost the undervalued dollar

-Ensure adequate pricing for farm goods

Jim Griffith, New Democratic

Jim Griffith

Occupation: stationary engineer, RCA Victor, Smiths Falls

What were his issues:

-Schools with adequate staff, and better curriculum

-Remove the financial barrier for higher education


Oscar Ventress, Social Credit

oscar ventress

Occupation: not stated

What were his issues:

-Reduce taxes: All families with an income of less than $5,000 would be Income Tax free

-Prohibit the import of dairy products from other countries into Canada

Election night banner

….and so the big night finally arrived, and all of the community around DeWitt’s Corners, headed to Cavanagh’s general store (our polling station) to cast their ballots…


Cavanagh’s store – our local polling station for the DeWitt’s Corners area

election results 1963 banner

election results 1963

                                                               April 11, 1963, p. 1, “The Perth Courier”


And who were the kids who lived around DeWitt’s Corners, waiting for their parents to return home after voting?

Class of 1958  –    S.S. # 4  Bathurst School – taught by Mary Jordan

DeWitt's School photo

From the Past to the Present

…And so, the years went by, and we watched from the sidelines, as our parents dressed in their Sunday best, and headed out the door to vote on election night. We heard their lively discussions about the merits of his party, and her party, and we witnessed firsthand their enthusiasm as they left the house to go and exercise their right to have their voices heard, to participate in a free democracy, to cast their ballots.

Now it’s fallen onto this generation, and those that will follow, to pick up their torch, and head out the door when it’s time to vote, with the same enthusiasm and hope for the future that they possessed, and to always remember the ones who gave the ultimate sacrifice, so all of this would be possible.

Lest we forget.

Voter’s list: (Voters Lists, Federal Elections.   R1003-6-3-E (RG113-B).  1963 – Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada)