Lanark County Calling – Book Launch

Just like the title of the book, when Lanark County calls us back home, especially in the fall of the year, we are welcomed by a panorama of fiery oranges, blazing reds, sunny yellows and dazzling greens.

leaf quote

 

lanark-county-sign

 

Signs of fall were everywhere, and a flock of geese escorted us along the road, all the way to Perth….
geese

 

A sunny drive up historic Gore Street, then we arrived at our destination – The Book Nook & Other Treasures.

Book Nook

 

Shortly after our arrival, I received a lovely bouquet of flowers from Rideau Ferry resident, Carol-Ann McDougall, along with her good wishes for the book launch.  What a thoughtful gift!

flowers from Carol-Ann

 

Owner of the Book Nook & Other Treasures, Leslie Wallack, provided a delicious assortment of milk chocolate and dark chocolate cookies, and piping hot coffee for all of the visitors to the store.

Leslie

 

One of the first visitors to the book launch, was old friend, and former class-mate Dianne Tysick Pinder-Moss.  Dianne and I have a long history, going back to our earliest days, at S.S. #5 School, a one-room schoolhouse, at Christie Lake, then to the Scotch Line school, and next, Glen Tay Public School, before heading off to Perth and District Collegiate Institute. Dianne and I also attended 4H Club together, as did many of the boys and girls in our rural farm community west of Perth.  Dianne is writing an article for the Agri News, on the new book “Lanark County Calling”, so mixing a bit of business, with the pleasure of spending time together again.

Dianne

 

Another special visitor who came early to the book launch, was former Art teacher from P.D.C.I – Wynne White.  What a pleasure to see Wynne after so many years have passed, and to learn that she remains active in her artistic pursuits.  This talented artist shared many of her techniques and methods over the years, and inspired those of us who attended her classes.  She often played the music of our time, during class, on a record-player at the front of the room.  One of the albums I recall was ‘Magical Mystery Tour’, and a tune that was played often –  ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’.  Mrs. White understood the connection between music, art, and inspiration, and with her gentle ways, and kind encouragement, had a way of bringing out the best in all of her students.

Wynne White

 

Two special visitors drove all the way from Kingston, Ontario to be with us for the book launch, cousins Marie and Yvonne.  Marie and Yvonne, like myself, are descendants of pioneers Tobias Stafford of County Wexford, Ireland, and Elizabeth McGarry, of County Westmeath, Ireland, who were among the earliest settlers to Drummond Township in 1816.

Marie and Yvonne 2

It was a special treat to have my brother, Roger Stafford, stop by, and spend some time with us.  Roger divides his time these days, between his home in London, Ontario, and his winter place in Fort Myers, Florida.  Like the geese we saw overhead earlier in the day, Roger will be returning south in the next few weeks.  It was great fun to have him at the book launch!

Roger

 

A book launch would not be complete without a visitor or two from the home soil, the Third Line, DeWitt’s Corners to be specific.  Elaine and Dave Morrow stopped by, and we had a lovely visit with them, and caught up on some local news.

Elaine

 

A great deal of research goes into writing the stories in any book, and one of the stories in “Lanark County Calling”,  is about the Soper Theatre, in Smiths Falls.  Jan Stepniak was a great help with the story, and he shared some fascinating, behind-the-scenes highlights of his many years as both Projectionist, and Manager, at the Soper Theatre.

Jan Stepniak

Another memorable guest, one who was tremendously helpful in telling the story of the Soper Theatre, was Violet Gariepy.  Violet began working at the Soper in the late fifties, right up to the time when the theater closed in 2012.  She shared her memories, stories, and some insights into the people who worked there over the years, and the special recollections that made her time there such a pleasure.

Vi 3

 

After a busy day chatting with special guests, and visitors, it was time to say good-bye.

Many thanks to our host, owner of The Book Nook & Other Treasures, Leslie Wallack.  Treasures indeed, the busy, cheery store is overflowing with unique gifts, and lovely items for the home, along with a huge assortment of books, for children and adults alike. Leslie carries all of my ‘Lanark County’ series of books, as well as many other local authors.

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Special thanks to those who shared their memories, stories, and special recollections for the story ‘A Night at the Movies: Soper Theatre in Smiths Falls:  Violet Gariepy, Jan Stepniak, the late Gordon Evoy, Scott Irvine, and Tammy DeSalvo.
Also, thank-you to award-winning country music artist Neville Wells, along with Marilyn Taylor-Dunham for sharing their memories and tales, for the story: “The Legendary Ompah Stomp”.

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This post is dedicated to the memory of Gordon Evoy, former Usher, at the Soper Theatre.  Gordon passed away before the book launch, and I was not able to thank him in person, for the many hours he spent sharing his memories, and insights from his years working at the theater.  I had many phone calls with Gordon, and he would always end them saying he had to go and walk his little dogs, in the park, near his home in Smiths Falls.  It was clear that those lively little dogs were very close to his heart. Gordon also shared two photos with me, one of his mother Phyllis Evoy, a former staff-member of the Soper Theatre; Phyllis worked in the ticket booth for many years, and it has been said that she called many of the local children by name, and was a friendly face during her many years working there.

Phyllis Jenkins Evoy

 

Gordon also proudly shared a photo of his grandfather, Harry Jenkins, former theater staff-member, an Usher at the Capitol Theatre, in Smiths Falls.   When Harry retired, he worked as a crossing guard, on Brockville Street, helping children safely navigate the busy streets.

Harry Jenkins

Thank-you Gordon.  Your stories and memories are captured forever in the book.  God Bless.  May you rest in peace.

 

 

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Lanark Museum – Our Visit to the Past

Lanark sign

Just a short drive from the pretty town of Perth, along the Lanark Road, lush, green, farmers fields welcome us into the Township of Lanark Highlands.  We follow the blue skies, and warm, summer winds, into the village of Lanark, and pull up near our destination –  the Lanark and District Museum.

Ann and Arlene in front of museum

Greeted warmly by Anne Graham, we make our way up the well-worn steps, into a very special place, where the caretakers and guardians of our history, preserve our memories, our stories, and our heritage.

 

Events board Lanark Museum

 

If you walk along George Street in Lanark, you will see a sign out front, greeting visitors,  listing upcoming events, and welcoming all, with no charge for admission, and donations accepted.  Anyone seeking knowledge, or in search of their history, is assured that they’ve come to the right place.

Not far from the front entrance, a plaque displays the names of those who went above and beyond, volunteering their time and expertise, throughout the decades, to keep the museum running smoothly.

 

volunteers Lanark Museum

 

A photo on the wall reminds us of those who played key roles in the earliest days of the museum.  Their foresight and dedication to preserving our local history leaves a lasting legacy, that will be enjoyed for many generations to come.

 

Key players Lanark Museum

 

Many of us have ancestors from the area who served in the military, and the Lanark Museum has many displays highlighting our local heroes.  Perhaps your ancestor is one of these soldiers who has been featured in the museum’s display cases.

War memorials Lanark Museum

 

The museum also features a number of Rolls of Honour, listing the names of soldiers from the area who fought bravely for our country.

 

Roll of Honour case

 

There are a tremendous number of local photographs.   It’s great fun to see the old cars, some of the buildings no longer with us, and even recognize some of the smiling faces in these photos.

 

Local photos

 

The museum is fortunate to have the help of two students for the summer.  Meagan was kind enough to document our visit using her photography skills.

 

Meghan Lanark County

 

There is a wonderful display of original telegrams, some sent, and some received, by the Lavant Station, many years ago.  These are real treasures, and give us some insight into the past and how different life was in those days!  There are lots of familiar surnames on these telegrams, and some even provide a window into our family histories!

 

Telegrams

 

Along with the countless documents displayed there are also some lovely artifacts.  The old wash bowl reminds us of the times before indoor plumbing was standard in our homes.  We can imagine how different our ancestor’s lives might have been, and how carrying water from an outside well into the home was a daily event for these pioneers.

 

wash bowl

 

If your ancestors lived in McDonald’s Corners there is a wonderful remembrance displayed, honoring those who served their country, so well, and so faithfully.

 

McDonald's Corners war memorial

 

There are also a number of displays listing those soldiers who attended specific area schools and the names of those who served.

 

SS8 War memorial

 

Another of the many area schools and their lists of those in service.

 

SS 12

 

The Lanark Museum has many, many of these displays, and this is only a small sampling of what is available to view.

 

SS13 Drummond

 

Being a history buff, it wasn’t easy to tear myself away from all of the exhibits in the museum, and get down to business, and read a couple of stories from my books.  I chose two stories from “Lanark County Kid – My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”.  I read one about a childhood visit to Lanark, and shopping for back-to-school clothing at the Kitten Mill.

My second story was “Balderson Cheese – Craving the Curd”.  Our family often went on Sunday drives, and a visit to Balderson for a bag of soft squeaky curd, was something not to be missed!  In the story, we go behind the counter, and watch the Master Cheesemaker, Omar Matte, and the others, while they stir the vats of heated milk, and then press the curds into big wooden circular presses.  Considering that the factory is no longer there, it is a precious memory to have witnessed this process.

 

book table Lanark Museum

 

There are some really wonderful displays highlighting the Kitten Mill, and those who worked there over the years.

 

Kitten Mill 1

 

The Museum has done a wonderful job of preserving the artifacts and documents from the days of the Glenayr Kitten mills, and reminding us of the impact to employment and the economic influence to the village.

Kitten Mill 2

I think that many of us remember visiting the factory outlets, and all of the wonderful knitted clothing produced locally.

 

Kitten 3

 

One of the special highlights for me was a visit with the Shamrock Quilt.  While we can’t be sure of the date of its origin, I recall seeing it displayed at the museum many, many years ago, and was delighted to see it once again.  This quilt is embroidered with the names of local families.  If your family lived in the area it would be worth the trip to see this marvelous quilt, and discover your ancestor’s name embroidered in green.

 

Shamrock quilt 1

 

The Shamrock Quilt holds a special connection for Doris Quinn and myself.   My Dad’s Aunt, Julia Stafford, married William Quinn, and both the Quinn and Stafford families are among the many, many, names on this precious artifact.  It was a wonderful moment to be able to stand beside Doris, and see those names from the past, those who are no longer with us, but remain forever in our hearts.

 

Shamrock 2

Photo below:   Julia Stafford and Bill Quinn, on their wedding day, Sept. 14, 1909.

Julia Stafford Bill Quinn

 

The following, are just a few squares, a small sample from the quilt, to show how the names have been stitched and displayed.

 

Shamrock 3

There are many other squares that were not photographed.  Anyone with ancestors from this area may want to visit the quilt themselves for a more in depth look.

 

Shamrock 4

 

Another square of the quilt, but the quilt is enormous, and would be best viewed in person.

 

Shamrock 5

 

A final square from this historic piece.  Hopefully the museum will photograph and digitize the entire quilt.  That might be an interesting and very worthwhile project for the summer students!

 

Shamrock 6

 

The late afternoon held a wonderful surprise – a visit from an old friend Susan Newberry Sarsfield.  It was a real delight to visit with Susan, her Mom, and her daughter!

Susan at the Museum

 

Like all good things, our visit to the Lanark Museum came to an end, and our host Anne Graham, kindly walked us out and into the sunny July afternoon.

It was a day filled with history, and the importance of preserving our past.  There are few tasks more essential than being the caretakers of our heritage.  The Lanark Museum is the proud custodian of our region’s artifacts, memories, stories, and treasures.

 

street in front of museum

Many thanks to the kind folks at the Lanark and District Museum for hosting us, and sharing their collection of priceless treasures.  Thanks also to the visitors who stopped by to share some stories and recollections.   Anne, Norma, Gene, Doris – it was so nice to spend time with you – thanks for helping to make our day special.

 

As we said goodbye, and headed down the highway,  we are struck by the pristine beauty of the Lanark Highlands, the clear waters, the fresh air, and the greenery as far as the eye can see, on this beautiful summer day.

 

Until we meet again…..

 

 

Country road summer

 

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com
Stories for the Lanark Museum readings from:
“Lanark County Kid:  My Travels Up and Down the Third Line”
‘Lanark Sweaters – Soft as a Kitten’
‘Balderson Cheese – Craving the Curd’
ISBN 978-0-9877026-16

Book Fair at the Crystal Palace

Autumn’s brightest maple trees were the colourful backdrop for the 3rd annual Book Fair at the Crystal Palace in Perth, Ontario. Nestled along the historic Tay Basin, the Farmer’s Market hosted a number of local authors, along with their usual offerings of produce, craftspeople, artisans and home-baked goods.

Perth Crystal Palace

perth-farmers-market-logo

The yearly event is a wonderful opportunity for visitors and residents alike to meet with authors, share in discussions, ask questions, and discover the literary offerings produced in their community.

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Anne Raina, author of ‘Clara’s Rib’, and Kay Rogers, Editor of ‘At Home in Tay Valley’ share a few words at the opening of the event.

anne-raina-and-kay-rogers0001

Author Gene Bassett was back this year with his books ‘Tall Tales’ and ‘Stolen Moments’. In Gene’s words, “Hopefully, these vignettes will give the reader time to pause, and give reflection to the humour and serendipity that keeps us in tune with life in all its ups and downs.”

gene-bassett0001

Larry Cotton, author of ‘Whiskey and Wickedness’ brought the full complement of books in his series.

larry-cotton0001

 

Kay Rogers was on hand at the event to promote “At Home in Tay Valley”, a collection of stories and memories from the people of Tay Valley.  Proceeds from the sale of At Home in Tay Valley will support an annual scholarship for a student graduating from Perth & District Collegiate Institute, or from St. John Catholic High School who has demonstrated a keen interest in history.

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Joel Leblanc and Thomas Uhryniw were busy, promoting the popular souvenir book marking 25 years of the Stewart Park Festival.

stewart-park-festival0001

A number of local readers as well as some out of town visitors stopped by to say hello.

chatting-with-a-visitor0001

What a treat to see a former classmate and neighbour from the Third Line – Dawn-Marie Brady, and share a few memories!

dawn-marie-brady0001

Signing a copy of my new book “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time” for Scott Reid, member of Parliament for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston.  Scott kindly shared some fascinating stories and history of the historic Haggart residence in Perth. It was a pleasure to meet with such an avid reader and history buff!

scott-reid0001

Once again, many thanks to those who stopped by to say ‘hello’ on this busy Thanksgiving weekend.

Thanks as always to our host the Perth Farmer’s Market for sponsoring this event, for promoting local authors, and most importantly for supporting literacy in the community.

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For more information about the Perth Farmer’s Market:    Perth Farmer’s Market

http://www.staffordwilson.com

UFO Sightings Over Perth

Since the infamous sightings in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947, people across North America have become more aware of strange lights, and unusual objects, in the night skies.

By the late 1960s in Perth Ontario, details of sightings were published in the local papers, and many credible witnesses reported their accounts of these strange events.

Flying Saucers With Red Lights

Over Port Elmsley

Confirmed by Perth OPP

UFO OPP sightings

Ivan Vandusen, R.R. 2 Smiths Falls,

– one of the first to report the UFOs

 

Ivan Van Dusen UFO reportIvan Van Dusen # 2

Flying in Formation, Ten Feet Apart…..

Moving toward Carleton Place

Everet Lavender

 

Mrs. Essex Clement in Port Elmsley:

“They just disappeared.”

 

Mrs. Essex Clement UFO

 

Two Perth OPPs see UFOs on HWY 43

Hovering Over the Army Tower

in Drummond Township

R.C.A.F. Asks for a Full Report

 

OPP Sighting UFO

UFOs Seen Over Mississippi Lake

 

UFOs over Mississippi Lake

 

It was called the

“Autumn of Aliens”

 

The night skies in Eastern Ontario became very active in the summer and fall of 1973, and some organizations reported that it was one of the largest number of U.F.O. sightings over North America, calling it the ‘Autumn of Aliens’.

Huge Chunks of Ice Fell from the Sky

In Lanark County, it all seemed to begin with a sudden hailstorm, on the Friday the 13th of July.  The hailstorm came out of nowhere, and huge chunks of ice fell, many almost three inches in diameter.  Hundreds of windows and car windshields were smashed by jagged pieces of ice.  A Smiths Falls resident was cut on the head by a chunk of falling ice, and required seven stitches. No one was seriously injured, although there were a few farmers that got caught outside, working in the fields, and had to seek shelter from the large chunks of ice falling from the sky.

lights in the sky

Barely 48 hours after the hailstorm, police departments in Perth and Smiths Falls received a number of calls from residents, claiming to have seen flying objects in the sky.

Flying Object Seen Near Balderson

A local man reported that he and five others were on the Eighth Line near Balderson at 9:30 p.m., when a flying object appeared to be travelling south to north, then returned to the south.   He observed that it was quite large, shaped like a tart.  Another report came in from a resident of Sherbrooke Street in Perth, who saw the same object overhead.  He said that his dog had howled constantly while the object appeared in the sky.

CJET Radio Holds Call-In Show

Due to large number of UFO Sightings!

So many people had observed the same object that CJET radio station in Smiths Falls held a call-in show the following Monday, so that people could phone the show, and share reports of what they had seen.

Sparkling Yellow-Orange Light

Over Perth

UFO 1

“The Perth Courier”, Thursday, April 19, 1973

 

Julian Kustra reports flying object

over Sherbrooke Street in Perth

UFO 2

“The Perth Courier” , Thursday, July 19, 1973, page 1.

flying saucer 3

UFO Reported in Beckwith Township

on Tennyson Road

The next UFO sighting to be reported in the fall of 1973 took place in Beckwith Township.  A young man was returning to Perth from Ottawa, driving along Highway 7 near Carleton Place, when his headlights suddenly went out.  Concerned that he might be pulled over by the police with his headlights out he decided to take the back way, and turned onto Tennyson Road.  The section of the road closest to Perth has swamp on both sides, and the lad noticed two large lights in the sky, hovering over the swamp.  The object was in the sky just above the tree line.  He pulled the car over to the side of the road, and as he stopped the car he noticed that the object stopped as well, and hovered over the swamp.  He remained parked for a few minutes, and then started to drive again.  When he began to move, so did the object, and it travelled parallel to him for a few more minutes, then disappeared.  Early the next morning, when he pulled out of his driveway in Perth, his headlights were working again.

flying saucer 4

Small Sphere Hovers in Sky

Over Smiths Falls

Another sighting in the late summer of 1973 was first reported by a young lad working at a gas station in Smiths Falls. He spotted a small sphere in the sky that appeared to be hovering in one fixed location.  He reported seeing silver flames coming from both the top and the bottom of the craft.  The lad was quick to call CJET radio station, and ask if anyone else had seen the odd sphere in the sky.  The radio station confirmed that yes, indeed; they could see it as well.  In the days that followed, at least 40 people in the Smiths Falls area came forward, stating that they had seen the object as well.

Cigar-Shaped Object in Sky

Over Horseshoe Bay, Rideau Lakes

In the summer of 1974 people were once again talking about another strange object in the sky.  It was a typical warm summer evening on the Rideau Lakes, and there were cottagers and residents alike, who saw more than they bargained for, on the night of August 12th.   At around 10 p.m., many were sitting outside, enjoying the call of the loons, and listening to the water lapping on the shore.  Suddenly, high in the night sky, a cigar-shaped object appeared.  Some described it as a long, flat shape, orange in colour. Many said that it was more red than orange, and was shaped like a sphere. Everyone that saw it agreed that it was silent, and it hovered over the Big Rideau Lake, on the south side of Horseshoe Bay, for several minutes, and then vanished.

flying saucer 5

It wasn’t just in the Perth area that strange objects and lights appeared in the sky.  Several residents of the town of Brockville, including some local police officers, confirmed the sightings of some odd lights moving in the night skies.

Brockville UFO

From “The Perth Courier”,  January 3, 1979,  front page, a sighting reported by George Shanks of Lanark, Ontario:

 

White Blinking Light in Sky

Over Ferguson Falls

flies from Almonte

to McDonald’s Corners

 

ufo-jan-1979

Cartoon printed in “The Perth Courier”, January 10, 1979, page 2

Flying objects in the sky became the talk of the town!

 

ufo-jan-10-1979

Strange sightings of unidentified flying objects were recorded in the Perth area as early as the late 1950s.  Fiery balls of light, objects moving up and down, back and forth, quickly, in ways that airplanes were not able to maneuver.

UFO Tracking Station

Established near Ottawa

UFO tracking stations were established just outside of Ottawa, and rumours of government radio towers and underground facilities were heard up and down the concessions in Lanark County.  Excavations were reported near Almonte, and government agents were testing the soil on several farms in Ramsay Township.

When reporters attempted to investigate, the government representatives denied all, despite the fact that local men were working as labourers on many of the projects and could confirm what they had seen.

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For more information on strange sightings in the night skies over Lanark County, and some of the government’s secret projects in the 1960s and 1970s, read the full story ‘Perplexed in Perth’, from the new book “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”.

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm & Blackwood Originals in Perth,  Perfect Books & Books on Beechwood in Ottawa, Arlie’s Books in Smiths Falls, Mill St. Books and Divine Consign in Almonte, or on http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark County Classics Book Cover small for blog

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark County Classics – Sneak Preview

Sneak peek banner

 

Table of Contents for blog

“In this collection of short stories the author invites the reader to journey back to a small farm in Eastern Ontario in the 1960s and 1970s.  Discover Irish legends, and learn about the troublesome banshees of North Burgess Township. Visit Clyde Forks, and share in an unsolved mystery that continues to baffle police today.  Join the celebration of a milestone, in the picturesque village of Middleville, and watch as a tragedy unfolds along the shores of the Mississippi, in Pakenham.  Chat with the neighbours at a popular general store in DeWitt’s Corners, and witness something unusual in the night skies over Perth. Join the author as she travels back to a simpler way of life, in this treasury of tales from another time.”

Book Review jpg

“Once again, Arlene Stafford-Wilson triumphantly transports the reader into the heart of rural Eastern Ontario in the 1960s and 1970s. The stories selected for Lanark County Classics, are a fine and timely follow-up to her 2015 release Lanark County Connections.

Stafford-Wilson’s stories are composed with an intense clarity of phrase and image. As in her previous books, her fascination with the human and natural history of her native ground — the rural farmlands, villages and small towns in Lanark County is inexhaustible.

In her latest renderings, even seemingly uneventful lives in sparsely peopled Eastern Ontario hamlets like DeWitt’s Corners, Clyde Forks, Lanark, Middleville and Pakenham — farmers, shopkeepers and townsfolk — are brought back to life for closer examination. Her stories come alive with local names and family connections.  In the simplest of words, and with the richest descriptions, she makes us see and hear an ‘unremarkable’ scene that we will never forget.

No one, having read this latest book, would ever again question, “What is so interesting about small-town rural Canada?” Her thorough and dedicated study of historical ingredients, always come up rich and fresh, seem never to be used up, and draw the reader into that place and time.

What makes Stafford-Wilson’s growth as an author so crisply and clearly visible throughout Lanark County Classics is the familiarity of her materials. With her vivid reminiscences set in rural towns and villages; the more she returns to it, the more she finds.

This latest work, once again confirms that the short story is alive and well in Canada where these heart-warming tales originate, like cool fresh breezes straight off the Rideau Lakes.”

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Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm & Blackwood Originals in Perth,  Perfect Books & Books on Beechwood in Ottawa, Arlie’s Books in Smiths Falls, Mill St. Books and Divine Consign in Almonte, or on http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Meet Me in DeWitt’s Corners

‘The Corners’ was a phrase heard often in our small community.  The Corners referred to DeWitt’s Corners, a mile or so west of our farm, and was located at the crossroads of the Third Line, Munro’s Side road and Cameron’s Side road.

The early settlers in Bathurst Township were keen to have their own church instead of driving to St. John’s Church in Perth, or St. Bridget’s Church in Stanleyville.  Roads were treacherous at times in the winter, with deep snow, sometimes freezing rain, or both.  John DeWitt, son of a pioneer settler, and his wife Mary Neil knew there was a need for a Roman Catholic Church to serve the growing community. Hoping to improve the situation, they made a promise to donate the land to build a church.

St. Vincent de Paul Church

The construction progressed quickly, and the first mass was held on November 23, 1889.  The church was packed that day, and this stately building has served generations of families around DeWitt’s Corners and the area for over 125 years and counting.

A bike ride down the Third Line often meant that my friends and I would gather around the millstone at Cavanagh’s general store.  It was a central meeting place where we could sit and talk.  Between us, we could usually scrounge together enough pocket change to buy some penny-candy at the store.

Shep with the Millstone

DeWitt’s Corners was a busy place in the 1960s and 1970s, with cars stopping at Cavanagh’s store for gas and groceries, or zooming up the Third Line toward Christie Lake.  Christie Lake was a tourist destination with accommodations of all kinds for seasonal visitors.  Norvic Lodge, Arliedale Lodge, and Jordan’s Cottages, were some of the busiest places in the summer months.

Cavanagh's store black and white

 

Across the Third Line from Cavanagh’s store was the old Bathurst cheese factory.  The factory produced cheese until about 1954 and then ceased operations as other larger factories began to edge out the smaller producers.

DeWitt Cheese factory

Photo: old Bathurst cheese factory in the background with Helen and Jim Cavanagh and Shep.

Not far from the ‘Corners’, just up Cameron’s Side Road was the little white school house – S.S. # 4 Bathurst, where many of the members of our family attended school.  Mary Jordan taught all eight grades, keeping order in a compact classroom, heated with a wood stove, and bursting with energetic farm kids.

S S # 4 class in 1968

Front row – Brent Scott, Carl Gamble,John Conboy,John Cameron, Peter Kerr, Bev Miller
2nd row – Standing Kim Kyle,Betty Conboy, Judy Radford, Janice Jordan , Nancy Radford, Beverly White, sitting in front of Nancy Radford is Bobby-Jean Gamble and beside her is Mary White
Beside Kim Kyle is Brent Cameron, Bryan Tysick, Maxine Closs with her arms around Judy Radford, behind her is Kenny Perkins, Brad Kyle, Susan Turnbull, Darlene Charby,
Back row Randy Sargeant, Kent Shanks, Mrs Carrie Barr, Doug Jordan, Brian Miller and Mark Greenley

S S # 4 School for book

S S # 4 school from Janice # 2

Back row: Mrs Carrie Barr, Mary White(in front) Beverly White, Anne Marie Kyle, Nancy Radford, Bobby-Jean Gamble, Maxine Closs, Darlene Charby, Doug Jordan, Brent Scott, Carl Gamble, JoAnne Cavanagh, Bev Miller, Judy Radford, Betty Conboy, Kim Kyle, Janice Jordan, Susan Turnbull
Front row: Brent Cameron , Peter Kerr, Mark Greenley, Raymond Shanks, Randy Sargeant, Brad Kyle, Brian Miller, Ken Perkins, Kent Shanks, Brian Tysick, Dan Charby, John Conboy, John Camerom

 

When Mary Jordan wasn’t busy teaching eight different grades, she coached the DeWitt’s Corners softball team.  Both of my sisters Judy and, Jackie, played on the championship team in 1959. My brother Roger was on the team in 1964.

DeWitt's softball champs 1959

 

DeWitt's Softball Champs 1964

 

FRONT ROW David Scott and Bill Cavanagh
MIDDLE ROW Earl Conboy and Ronnie Brown
BACK ROW; Arthur Perkins, Roger Stafford Norman Kerr Arnold Perkins Connie Conboy and Mrs Mary Jordan

S S 4 School colour

Interior photo of S.S. # 4 Bathurst School

Front row Earl Conboy, David Scott, Arthur Perkins, Ron Brown, John Conboy, Bill Kyle

2nd row Arnold Perkins,Joe Mitchell, Roger Stafford, Norm Kerr, Bob Perkins,Paul Cavanagh

3 rd row Peter Kerr, Betty Conboy, Anne Kerr, Bill Cavanagh, Carl Gamble, Judy Radford, Janice Jordan, Doug Jordan Back row Mary Jordan, Kim Kyle, Connie Conboy, John Scott, Richard Cooke, Sharon Doyle

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There always seemed to be a sense of history in DeWitt’s Corners, and intriguing tales of the early settlers were told and re-told around that small hamlet. Most of us in the community were aware that Helen Cavanagh was a member of the DeWitt family, but many may not have realized how far back her roots stretched to the earliest settlers.

William DeWitt, and his wife Margaret Noonan DeWitt had a large family of eight daughters:  Helen Mae DeWitt who married Jim Cavanagh, Margaret Gertrude DeWitt, Vera DeWitt who married Ed Brady, Carmel DeWitt Matthews who settled in San Francisco, California, Jean DeWitt Garry, Mary DeWitt O’Hara, Josephine DeWitt who settled in Toronto, and Sophia DeWitt.

Cavanagh’s Store

The store opened on June 3, 1947 – carrying a full line of groceries, confectionaries, and tobacco products. Along with groceries and everyday sundries, Cavanagh’s store also sold gas supplied by Esso, a branch of Imperial Oil. Locals and cottagers, along with campers at nearby Christie Lake, were all pleased to hear that there would be a general store in the area, and they would no longer have to drive to Perth to pick up daily necessities.

Jim and Helen Cavanagh operated the popular neighbourhood store for nearly four decades until they retired in 1985.

Cavanaghs store for book

Many members of this proud community played a part, and their descendants carry with them the legacy of this historical settlement in Lanark County:

Adams, Allan, Blackburn, Blair, Brady, Cameron, Carberry, Cavanagh, Chaplin, Closs, Conboy, DeWitt, Dixon, Doyle, Fife, Foster, Gamble, Heney, Hogan, Johnston, Jordan, Keays, Kerr, Kirkham, Korry, Kyle, Leonard, Majaury, Menzies, Miller, Mitchell, Morrow, Munro, Murphy, Myers, Noonan, Palmer, Perkins, Popplewell, Radford, Ritchie, Somerville, Scott, Siebel, Stafford, Stiller, Truelove, Turnbull, and Tysick.


 

Thanks to JoAnne Cavanagh Butler for contributing the photos, and thanks to Janice Gordon, JoAnne Cavanagh Butler, Roger Stafford and Beverly Miller Ferlatte for all of their help identifying our neighbours and classmates in the photos!


 

For more information about the history of DeWitt’s Corners and the people who settled in the community, you can read the full version of the story in “Lanark County Classics: A Treasury of Tales from Another Time”

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm & Blackwood Originals in Perth,  Perfect Books & Books on Beechwood in Ottawa, Arlie’s Books in Smiths Falls, Mill St. Books and Divine Consign in Almonte, or on http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lanark County Classics Book Cover small for blog

http://www.staffordwilson.com

 

 

The Cry of the Banshee in North Burgess Township

banshee

 

The story of the Burgess Ghost begins with the arrival of so many Irish to the areas around Westport, the Scotch Line, Black Lake, and Stanleyville, that it became known as the ‘Irish Invasion’.

This is the the home where the story took place, in the cold, bitter winter of 1935, at the home of Mr. John Quinn.  John lived in the house with his wife, and two sons Michael age 13, and Stanley, 11.

 

Quinn house Burgess

Don Rennie, reporter for The Perth Courier, wrote a story on the Burgess Ghost in 1967:

“Strange occurrences were happening in 1935 at a farm in North Burgess just off the Narrows Locks road. Mr. John Quinn, his wife and two children, Michael, and Stanley, ages 13 and 11, reported innumerable phenomena taking place in their home. Stove lids, according to the Quinns, “danced” in the air, the teapot “jumped” off the stove into the wood box, three flat irons “walked” down a staircase and dishes “pranced” on the dining-room table. Word of this mysterious goings on spread quickly throughout the district. Although, perhaps skeptical, hundreds of persons from miles around flocked to the Quinn home.

On the Sunday after the reporting of the “ghosts” more than 100 cars arrived at the Quinn farm. Along with the cars a flotilla of cutters and sleighs dotted the white-capped farm. The snow fell incessantly and the thermometer dipped way below the zero mark.

Newsmen from across the country arrived and the CBC news from Toronto reported the strange events. Although the strange occurrences could not be readily explained many held doubts in their minds as the credulity of the phenomena. Believing that there had to be a reasonable explanation behind the occurrences, the Perth detachment of the OPP decided to hold an investigation.

On a Saturday afternoon, members of the force motored to the Quinn home, and inspected the building. Nothing strange occurred while they were there. That same evening Inspector Storey returned to the house. He remained there until Sunday morning along with about a dozen district men, sat in the house, speaking in hushed tones, but again nothing happened.

Quinn family and police Burgess

photo: members of the Quinn family, and the local police force

Mr. Quinn was unable to explain the strange occurrences that had been going on for the past couple of weeks. Pieces of beef he had placed in a barrel had been found littered throughout the house, he said, and the Wednesday before a window pane crashed for no apparent reason. He had not thought that too odd until it happened the very next evening.

Andrea Burke, a neighbouring farmer, declared that a bone thrown out of the home time and time again had always returned to the house for no explicable reason. Another neighbour, William Cordick, swore that he had seen three flat irons descend the Quinn’s staircase one after another.”

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Who were these Irish Settlers?

Most, but not all of the Irish in North Burgess Township, came from County Down and County Armagh, and many came in the 1840s, to escape a horrible famine, that swept through Ireland  like an unstoppable plague.   A disease called Potato Blight ravaged their crops for nearly a decade, and during that time over a million died of starvation, and an equal number fled Ireland on ships sailing to Canada and the United States.

irish potato blight

Most were tenant farmers, leasing their land; unable to pay their rent when their crops failed, and were evicted by ruthless landlords.  They bundled up what little they had, and boarded ships headed for the new world.

Irish immigrants

Seven weeks was the average length of time spent at sea, and the conditions endured by these Irish immigrants were so terrible that the ships were nick-named ‘coffin ships’.  The lice, ticks and fleas common in these over-crowded vessels were the ideal breeding grounds for the transmission of disease, and by 1847 an average of 50 passengers died each day of typhus on their voyage from Ireland.

coffin ship

 

typhus

 

The areas where this ‘wave’ of Irish settled in Lanark County:

nburgess

These new settlers brought their traditions, customs, and stories with them to the new country.  Stories and legends were passed down from father to son, and from mother to daughter.  Tales from the old country were told in the evenings by the fire, and the one story that seemed to run up and down the concessions in North Burgess was the legend of the Irish Banshee.

Irish legend

The Banshee, or ‘Bean Sidhe’ is an Irish spirit, and her high-pitched wail foretells of a death in the family.  It was said that each family had its own Banshee, and that they travelled with them from the old country.  Some said that the family’s Banshee would stay in Ireland at the family’s estate, and mourn the dead.  The settlers to the new land brought their vivid descriptions of the Banshees – some claiming that she was an old hag with red eyes, but others said she was a fair, pale Irish beauty with long red hair dressed in a flowing gown.

Banshee   OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s been said that whoever hears her high and piercing shriek could be sure that there would be a death within 24 hours.  Irish lore tells that the Banshee always wailed when a family member dies, even if the person had died far away, and news of their death had not yet come. The wailing of the banshee was the first warning to the household of the death.

When several banshees appeared at once, it was said to foretell of the death of someone prominent, or of an accidental or unintended death – often of a murder victim, a suicide, or a mother who died in childbirth.

The early settlers in North Burgess passed down their stories of banshees, fairies, ghosts and the little people.  Although they were fiercely loyal to God and to the church, they never abandoned their beliefs in the spirits and creatures of their ancient folklore.

The Story of the Burgess Ghost became a local legend….

The story of the ghost in the Quinn house was passed down through the years, told and retold at family gatherings, around campfires, and particularly in the weeks each year leading up to Hallowe’en.

In a strange final twist to the mystery of the Burgess Ghost, the Quinn family home burned to the ground.  The cause of the fire was never determined, and remains a mystery to this day…..

In 1972, the Quinn home was burned to the ground.

haunted house headline

haunted house of Burgess

quinn house 1

quinn house 2

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Some of the families who were among the earliest settlers to North Burgess Township:

Adam

Bennett

Byrne

Byrnes

Byres

Callaghan

Chaffey

Darcy

Deacon

Donnelly

Dooker

Doran

Eagan

Farrell

Hanlon

Haughian

Jackman

Kearns

Kelly

Kerr

Lappan

Lennon

McCann

McCracken

McGlade

McIver

McLeod

McNamee

McParland

McVeigh

Mullin

Murphy

O’Connor

O’Hare

O’Neill

Parry

Powers

Quigley

Quinn

Ryan

Scanlon

Smith

Stanley

Stapleton

Thompson

Toole

Traynor

Troy

White

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In 2002 the townships formerly known as North Burgess, South Sherbrooke and Bathurst were part of an amalgamation, and adopted the name of Tay Valley Township, as they are known today.

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For genealogical records of the founding families of North Burgess Township:

http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onlanark/nburgess.htm

National Archives of Canada – Immigration Databases Online Searh –  Immigration to Canada

St. Bridget’s Cemetery Staneyville Ontario

Roman Catholic interments North Burgess Township

Scotch Line Cemetery – Burials from 1822-2000  North Burgess Township

Scotch Line Cemetery – North Burgess

Irish Immigration to Canada

Irish Immigration to Canada National Archives

Lanark County Genealogical Society

https://lanarkgenealogy.com/

Archives Lanark

http://archiveslanark.ca/index.php

Search the census records for North Burgess Township, Lanark County

Searchable online census records for Lanark County

Irish Genealogy Records online

Irish Records

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For more information on Irish Folklore in the early days of Lanark County:

Banshees of Burgess’, is part of a collection of short stories in ‘Lanark County Classics – A Treasury of Tales from Another Time’. The reader will discover more about the early families from Ireland who settled in Lanark County, and their customs and beliefs in the supernatural, brought from the old country.  The story explores some of the tales passed down by these Irish settlers, and documents their personal experiences with Banshees, ghosts, and fairies while living in Lanark County.

Available at The Book Nook, The Bookworm & Blackwood Originals in Perth,  Perfect Books in Ottawa, Mill St. Books and online.

 

Lanark County Classics Book Cover small for blog

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(map of Northern Ireland – By Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) – map by NNW, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7918534)