‘Witching’ or ‘Dowsing’ for Water

“The Well’s Run Dry!”

I often wonder what went through our Mother’s mind, when Dad informed her that there was no indoor plumbing in the farmhouse, on the Third Line of Bathurst, where they would be living, after the war.

They purchased the farm from Dad’s aunt and uncle, partly with the help of a Veteran’s Grant, in 1946, when Dad returned from overseas.  With two babies in diapers, I can’t imagine that my Mother was very happy at the prospect of drawing water from a well, with a hand-pump, a hundred yards from the house.  There was a big cement cistern in the basement as well, which collected rain water, but that was just for washing, not drinking.

Water was often in short supply, and almost every year by summer’s end, the well was running dry.  When Dad worked for Chaplin’s Dairy, in Glen Tay, he brought water home from the dairy at  night, in big metal milk cans, to hold us over, for a while.

Drilling a well was an expensive project to undertake.  People paid by the foot, and we’d all heard the horror stories about a neighbour or acquaintance, who had paid for drilling but had not ‘hit’ water in the process.

I’m not sure if it’s still done, but the practice in those days, back in the 1950s and 1960s, was to hire a ‘Switcher’, or ‘Diviner’, who would walk the property, and use a method called ‘Dowsing’. In fact, this was such a common practice at the time that I recall this technique being called by a few different names:  Witching,  Switching, and Divining, depending on who you were talking to.

Edgar Hamm witching 2017

Edgar Hamm calls it ‘Witching’, but some call it ‘Dowsing

 

In many cases, a drilling company either had someone on staff, or knew a person with this skill, and brought them along to assist in finding the best spot to drill, where the water was closest to the surface.

The Thompson brothers, Jerry and Connie drilled our well, although I don’t recall who they hired to walk the land with the willow branch to detect the water.

“I remember when a new well was drilled, and when the men came with the dowsing stick. I can’t recall when they called it – I think a divining stick or rod, but it was used to find water.  

I was there, and asked if I could try it.  The men seemed amused, but he told me what to do.  I can’t remember if I felt anything or not, but when he found the water, it seemed to pull him and the stick almost down to the ground.” 

Jackie Stafford Wharton

I recall in those days they used a willow branch, and fashioned it so that it had two short ends, and one long end.  Willow was used, because it was supposed to create the strongest ‘pull’ to the water.  I’ve also heard that peach branches, or hazel branches conduct water in the same way.

divining rod from book

The divining rod: A history of water witching, with a bibliography Water Supply Paper 416 (1917)

 

The practice of dowsing, goes back to the 15th century in Europe, where it was used not only to find water, but to detect metals as well.

Divining rod in Britain 18th century

Divining Rod, 18th century Britain

Dowsing or Witching was used extensively during the building of the railroad, to find drinking water for the crew, along the route.

 

Water witching

Water-witching, 1907

 

Farmers have used water-witching for generations, to determine the best place to dig their wells, and to find a source of drinking water for their cattle in a pasture.

 

Divining rod 1942

George Casely uses a hazel branch to find water on his farm, 1942

 

The practice continues to be used today, in some cities in Canada.  Metal rods are used instead of the old-fashioned tree branches.

City of Ottawa diviner 2017

CBC News, 

“The city (Ottawa) says it still routinely uses the age-old detection technique, also known as dowsing or water witching.

“Definitely the other technology works more consistently,” said Quentin Levesque, manager of what’s known as the city’s “locates group.”

“Should they have difficulties or troubles using the other equipment, the divining rod is there as well.”

The practice involves walking slowly over an area while holding one of the L-shaped rods in each hand. When the two rods cross, that’s supposed to signify the diviner is standing over water.”

Some Call it ‘A Gift’

Can anyone use divining rods, or a willow switch to find water?

Some say it is a gift, and only those with this natural, intuitive, sensing ability can detect water.  Some say that it doesn’t necessarily pass from father to son, or down through the family.

Some people claim that dowsing is a psychic ability, and some scoff and say that it is a learned ability, and that anyone can be trained to do it.

Whether it’s a gift, or something that can be learned, it’s still being practiced today by some, to pinpoint sources of water.

Were my parents happy when the well-witcher located the water in our yard, and the Thompson brothers drilled our well?  They sure were!

Was it mystical or magical or other-worldly, when our Mother turned on the tap in the old house, and drinking water gushed out for the first time?

I’m sure to her, it was.

Audry in front of the house

Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, in front of the old house, c. 1965

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

story is an excerpt from “The Well’s Run Dry”, in ‘Recipes & Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen, ISBN 978-0-9877026-0-9

R and R bookmark image

 

 

 

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

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

Lunch with the Retired Women Teachers of Ontario

Retired Teachers of Ontario 10001_1

The scenic town of Perth glowed in the warmth of the bright spring sun as we made our way along historic Gore Street last Thursday.  The Retired Women Teachers of Ontario had kindly invited me to speak at their monthly meeting, and they chose the popular Maximilian Restaurant as their venue.

Maximilian, open since 1975 has enjoyed tremendous popularity in Perth, as well as the surrounding area, and many come from neighbouring towns and cities to sample their delicious cuisine; particularly their famous melt-in-your-mouth schnitzel dishes!

Retired Teachers of Ontario 60001Retired Teachers of Ontario 20001

I received a warm welcome from the RWTO, and once everyone had arrived and settled into their seats, I read two short stories to the group –each with a theme about education. The first story from my book “Lanark County Kid”, is about the transition from the one room school houses to a centralized school, built in 1968 – Glen Tay Public School.  The story describes the debates that went on and on for months, regarding the financial strain on the townships and  should they proceed with building a new school. The discussions that followed highlighted the pros and cons by both parents and teachers concerning which of the two styles of education provided the best overall experience for the students.  The story describes the new school, larger student population, and the advantages and benefits of the new facilities and modern methods of teaching.

The second story that I presented focused on a popular local teacher in the 1960s and 1970s – Mrs. Dencie (Tryon) Conboy.  One of the unique features of Mrs. Conboy’s classes was her fondness for blending studies with physical activities, usually in the form of softball games, designed to help burn off pent-up energy when students became restless in her classroom.  Her teaching style was ahead of its time, and many of her students went on to become successful, contributing members of their communities.  The story was a tribute to her methods of ‘thinking outside the box’ in her popular and perhaps slightly unorthodox and much-loved teaching style.

Retired Teachers of Ontario 40001Retired Teachers of Ontario 50001

After lunch there was an opportunity to meet with many of the teachers, and to discuss the changes in education through the years, and some interesting new developments on the horizon.

The lunch at Maximilian was delicious as always, and it was a delight to meet with so many of the members of the RWTO.   There were lots of fascinating discussions as well as questions about the five books on Lanark County that I brought to the presentation.  I would imagine that teachers and books go together like honey and bees, so it was my pleasure to introduce the members to my collection of published books.

Retired Teachers of Ontario 30001

The sun was still bright and warm as we departed from our delicious lunch with the RWTO members.  There are few things as peaceful and lovely as a drive through the town of Perth on a mild spring day.

Many thanks to the RWTO members for their warm hospitality, and for making our visit with them such a delight!

———

For more information about ‘Lanark County Kid: My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”

For more information about Maximilian Restaurant in Perth Ontario:

Maximilian Restaurant Perth Ontario

For information about the Retired Women Teachers of Ontario:

RTWO history