Christmas at the Stafford House

Judy:   “Christmas Day in those days, as now, was a joyous occasion, but we knew that there would not be many presents because our parents couldn’t afford them, but there were second-hand sleighs or toboggans, and gifts that were hand-made or hand-sewn.” 

Roger: ” I remember waking up and being able to see our breath Christmas morning. I remember moving wood, both at home and at school (S.S.#4 Bathurst), as both were heated with wood. Neither had running water. Water was pumped into a pail, and brought inside for drinking and cooking.”

Judy Stafford (standing) Audry Stafford seated, front row, left to right – Jackie Stafford, Roger Stafford and Tim Stafford

Arlene:  “One year Aunt Nellie Rutherford sent us a beautiful Christmas ornament.  It was made of brass and had a circular base, with a brass rod that extended up from the base.  Attached to the rod about halfway down were four angels with tiny rods hanging beneath each, and two bells extending out to the sides. On the base were holders for four small candles, and when you lit the candles the angels began to go around in a circle faster and faster, and their tiny rods would strike the bells and ring very softly.  That was one of my favourite decorations.  I also liked the little cone-shaped paper angels that hung on the tree, and the metal birds with tails made of real feathers that clipped onto the branches.”

Roger: “I can also remember Mom and the girls putting the Christmas cards on strings and hanging them up for decorations. I can remember cutting up Christmas cards from the year before to make the tags for gifts. And there were the bells on the doors. I remember one on the door to the hall and I believe one on the front door. “

Jackie:  “I think that at one time almost everything hung on the tree was homemade.”

Tim Stafford with Arlene Stafford

Tim: “I was not able to sleep Christmas Eve.  I had been warned several times that Santa would leave only potatoes in my stocking if I didn’t sleep.  When I actually did get potatoes in my stocking when I was eight or nine years old I was in shock.”

Judy: “Oh yes, I certainly did get potatoes in my stocking…a very clear message on Christmas morning, and it was probably on more than one occasion.  I wasn’t very surprised either!  We were usually threatened and she always carried through. The only candy I remember getting in my stocking was hard candy, and there was always an orange in my stocking – that was a rare treat as fresh, imported fruit wasn’t usually seen at other times of the year.  Soda pop would also be purchased, but only at Christmas.”

Jackie:   “Mother would put our stockings at the end of our bed when she thought we were asleep, and sometimes we were.  If we had been bad we would have a potato in our stocking, along with a piece of fruit and a bit of candy.”

Roger: “I can also remember getting a potato in my sock one year. Mother had warned me that Santa put potatoes in bad boys’ socks. It shouldn’t have been any surprise to me.”

Judy Stafford and Tim Stafford

Judy: “We received what we considered very expensive gifts from our Uncle Jack Rutherford in Alberta, and were allowed to choose one gift to open on Christmas Eve, and we usually chose his.  There was no ripping off of gift paper – the parcels had to be carefully unwrapped and ribbons, if any, had to be handed over to Mother before they could get mixed up with the discards and boxes, which would be thrown in the cook-stove to burn.”

Arlene Stafford and Judy Stafford

Arlene: “I was always excited to go to Calvin Church, on Christmas Eve. During the service I would usually be whispering to my friends Susan and Jane Munro, who sat in the pew in front of us, until Mother would give me ‘the look’ and then I would try to be quiet.  It wasn’t easy being quiet because I knew so many of the kids there. Looking around the church I saw lots of my friends from school – Patti Jordan, Jutta and Judy Siebel, and Barb Patton.  George Jordan and I were in the same grade, Steve Scott, Harold Closs and Bobby Miller were a grade ahead of me, and then there were the older girls who were a little bit farther ahead in school like Janice Jordan, Karen Jordan and Maxine Closs. After church was over, I would see my friends outside and we’d be talking excitedly about what gifts we were hoping to find under the tree the next morning.”  

Jackie Stafford and Tim Stafford in front of the Stafford House

Judy:   “Parcels from the West, or also known as the ‘hand-me-down box’, would arrive from our Aunts in Alberta, twice a year, with our cousins gently worn clothing – every summer a box of winter clothes, and every winter, just before or right after Christmas, a box of summer clothes arrived.  This was always an exciting time when we would crowd around Mother as she opened the box, and decided who would get what, and if any of the clothing had to be altered to fit us.  I remember a lot of the dresses being brown which was not my favourite colour, but I imagine they were practical as they would not show the dirt.  Mother also made dresses and blouses and skirts – shirts for the boys.  I remember a lovely lilac plaid summer dress Mother made for me, and an identical one in pink plaid for Jackie.  Our shoes were purchased from a factory outlet store in Lanark, and we made that trip a couple of times a year to buy shoes for school. “

Tobias ‘Tim’, ‘Tib’ Stafford checking the Christmas lights on the spruce tree

Roger:   “Dad always put lights up outside, usually on the spruce tree near the door. I often watched the northern lights dancing, or heard the whistle of the train at the crossing back of the house, or the sound of the train itself on a cold winter night. I guess those are a couple of the reasons that cities have no attraction for me.”

Judy:  “Nothing these days will ever replace the sound of the train whistle as it passed back at the tracks around midnight every night, or the sounds of the sleigh runners cutting through the snow on a crisp winter’s night.”

Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, in the kitchen, preparing some Christmas treats

Mother’s Chocolate Fudge

2 Tbsp. butter

2 c. miniature marshmallows

1 1/2 cups of chocolate chips

2/3 cup evaporated milk

1 tsp. vanilla

1 2/3 cups of sugar

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (if desired)

1/2 tsp. salt

Mix butter, milk, sugar and salt in a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat..

Stir in marshmallows, chocolate chips, vanilla and walnuts.

Pour into an 8-inch buttered pan. Cool. Cut into squares. Makes 2 lbs.

Tim:  “My favourite Christmas food –    Chocolate fudge with walnuts.”

Roger:  I certainly remember all the toffee and fudge Mom used to make at Christmas. Mother also baked many specialty cookies for Christmas. As Christmas approached mother would review her stock in the freezer only to find much of our favourites had disappeared. I can remember holding the door while one of my siblings with longer arms would lean in and load up on treats from the freezer. I was never averse to a sweet bribe.”

Arlene Stafford making a snowman

Jackie:  “When I was a kid, Mother bought her Christmas candy through the catalogues – Sears and Eaton’s and bought medium size boxes of licorice all-sorts; bridge mixture; and the cinnamon candies.  I think she probably bought other types as well but I remember the ones I liked.  She hid them in the bedroom, and then, closer to Christmas, in the pantry somewhere, and she would go in there now and then with an empty bowl, and magically come out with a bowl of one of those candies.  A great treat because we rarely had that kind of ‘bought’ candy.”

Roger:  “I also remember that Mother would always buy some grapes and Christmas oranges for a special treat at Christmas.  It makes me feel very lucky to be able to go buy any type of fruit all year long.”

Jackie Stafford with niece, Andrea Ryan, eldest daughter of Judy Stafford Ryan

Jackie:   “Christmas Eve was always an interesting time.  Dad would be late from work, delivering milk for Chaplin’s Dairy, and Mother would usually let us eat at the usual time as she was never sure when Dad would turn up.  When he did come home, he was tired and he had a bag of stuff with him.  While he ate his warmed up dinner Mother would open all of the presents he got from his customers.” 

Arlene:  “Dad used to get five or six boxes of chocolates from his customers.  I was always hoping that he would get a box of chocolate covered cherries.  They were my favourite.”

Roger:  “I remember Dad bringing home Christmas cards from his customers in Perth, on the milk route, and Mom opening them up and taking the cash out to put towards a summer holiday.

Jackie:   “On Christmas Eve Dad’s customers would often give him money – usually $1 or $2 dollars and Mother would have little piles of bills.  Sometimes they would know his brand of cigarette and those were great, but the Export A and Players were traded at his favourite store, if possible.  I would love those because we would get the empty tins and I would love to put my crayons in one and some little bits in pieces in another. He also got single packs of cigarettes and they were often his brand.”

Judy Stafford and Jackie Stafford

Judy:   “I remember that Mother didn’t like anyone in the kitchen when she was cooking, and when we were older and came home at Christmas, she would post a list of duties for each of us on the refrigerator.”

Jackie Stafford, Arlene Stafford, and Judy Stafford

Jackie: ” One Christmas, there was a toboggan under the tree for me. Tim already had one, which was a good size, but mine was smaller, and perfect for me. We couldn’t wait to get outside and try it. In those days, there was a lovely hill to the right of the house, part of the land surrounding the barn. We would slide down the hill, and if you went through the gap you ended up in the next field.”

Roger: “I can remember one year, that Uncle Jack Rutherford, sent Jackie and I, aluminum snow-shoe-shaped sliders. We used to try to slide down the hill near the barn, standing up. We seldom succeeded.”

Judy: “We skated and tobogganed. We went down the hill in the field beside the house, and over a low fence, and that caused a few accidents!”

Tim: “In the early part of the winter, if there was a cold snap and not too much snow, the creek would freeze over and I would skate to school (S.S. #4 Bathurst), passing all through the farms, and coming out at the bridge just south of the school. On days when the ice was too thin, I would arrive home soaked to the knees, and Mom would have to dry all of my clothes as best she could on the wood-stove oven door, as there was no clothes dryer then. The skates I used were Dad’s, with extra socks in them.”

Jackie: “We skated until our feet were so cold that we could not get our skates off, so when we were small, we just walked home in them. Mother would get the skates off, and we would sit in front of the open oven door to thaw out our feet.”

 

Jackie Stafford, and niece, Andrea Ryan, in the front yard, Korry’s farm in the background.

Jackie:  “When we were old enough Dad would let us go with him to get the Christmas tree.  As we got older we would sometimes have already selected a few possible trees for Dad to look at.  In the early years we walked back to the bush and brought the tree back on Tim’s toboggan.  I was always half frozen by the time we got back home.”

Jackie Stafford, pulling niece, Andrea Ryan, on a sled, on the side road, near the house.

Roger:  “I can remember trying to find a nicely shaped tree that wasn’t too big, and then getting home and finding it was still too large to go in the house. At one time I can remember Dad nailing a large board to the bottom of the tree to stand it up. That was before we had a Christmas tree stand. I can remember Mom having us check the stand for water to make sure the tree wasn’t drying out too fast. I can also remember all the needles falling off when the decorations were being taken off the tree, and the tree was taken out through the kitchen to the yard. I can remember Mom using some of the boughs cut off to make a wreath.”

Back row: Roger Stafford, cousin Gail Stafford, Jackie Stafford, Judy Stafford, Arlene Stafford. Front row: cousin Peter Stafford, Tim Stafford

Tobias ‘Tim’, ‘Tib’ Stafford, his sister-in-law, Aunt Pat Stafford, and his brother, Peter ‘Pete’ Stafford

Jackie:   “In those days Mother made popcorn, and we strung it on string, and used that as a garland on the tree.”

Roger:  “I can also remember stringing popcorn for decorations.”

L to R: Roger Stafford, Arlene Stafford, Judy Stafford, Audry Stafford, Tobias ‘Tim’ Stafford, Tim Stafford, Jackie Stafford

Jackie:  “Mother bought coloured craft paper, and we cut out strips of paper and glued them together to make a circle, and then a circle within the previous circle, and on and on, until we had a string long enough to go from the corners of the living room to the light fixture in the center of the ceiling.  We usually did them red, green, etc.”

L to R: Judy Stafford, Jackie Stafford, Tim Stafford, Roger Stafford

Arlene: “Board games, and card games were a favourite on Christmas night, after dinner. Everyone gathered in the kitchen, and Mother brought us bowls of fudge, taffy, cookies, and sweet squares. We played Rummy, Monopoly, and sometimes Crokinole, until the wee hours. Mother always bought soft drinks at Christmas, sometimes cola, orange, or root beer. That was the only time of the year we had pop in the house.

Tobias ‘Tim’ ‘Tib’ Stafford and Audry (Rutherford) Stafford, 1968

Judy: “Before the day was out, our Mother would iron the Christmas paper and ribbon, which would be carefully tucked away until next year.  To this day, I cringe when I see anyone rip off gift paper with no thought of re-using it.   We often made our own Christmas wrapping paper in those days, using cut-up brown paper bags, and drawing pictures on with crayons, and tying up the gifts with binder-twine.  We were always appreciative of what we received, because wealth to us was being happy and healthy, with loved ones around to share the joy.”

The Stafford siblings, with their spouses: Back row- Roger Stafford, Sam Wharton, Kevin Wilson, Tim Stafford, Jim Ryan. Front row: Ruth (Parks) Stafford, Jackie Stafford Wharton, Arlene Stafford-Wilson, Marian (Salemink) Stafford, and Judy Stafford Ryan.

Audry (Rutherford) Stafford 1919-2007, Tobias ‘Tim’ ‘Tib’ Stafford 1918-1992

…..and so we’ve come to the end of our Christmas visit to the Stafford House. If you had spent Christmas Day with us you would have never guessed that we didn’t have very much money. Our dinner table was overflowing with food – a huge platter of turkey, bowls heaped with stuffing, a basket piled high with soft homemade dinner rolls, steaming mashed potatoes, gravy, cheese, and pickles, and that was just the main course.

For dessert there was homemade Christmas fruit cake, shortbread, chocolate chews, cherry balls, gumdrop cookies, almond cookies, shortbread, sweet squares, chocolate fudge with walnuts, homemade toffee, licorice all-sorts, bridge-mixture, mixed nuts, and boxes of assorted chocolates.

The Stafford house was filled with laughter, and multiple lively conversations. There were chiming bells attached to the front door and hall door, and Christmas cards displayed, framing every doorway and covering every flat surface in the living room. A fragrant fresh-cut spruce tree graced the corner of the living room, proudly displaying our homemade ornaments, and a few precious glass balls that Mother had saved over the years. Our opened gifts were nestled under the tree, along with the remnants of our stockings from that morning.

By the evening, Mother would be resting on the couch, and Dad would be lounging in his lazy-boy chair. They often discussed the events of the day, while sharing a box of chocolates Christmas night – she preferring the hard toffee centers, and Dad enjoying the soft creams, which worked out very well indeed, over their many Christmases together.

You would have found the Stafford children in the kitchen, playing cards, or board games, sharing a dish of fudge, a bowl of nuts, and some homemade cookies. We’d often be sporting the paper crowns from the Christmas crackers we’d pulled at dinner time. You would have heard genuine shrieks of laughter, and some friendly jabs, many hilarious jokes from Roger, and witty remarks from Tim, with his dry sense of humour. You’d likely hear the girls scolding the boys for some of their occasional off-colour comments, followed by more laughter, and a few groans, as we all complained about how much food we’d consumed, all the while everyone agreeing how delicious it was.

As Christmas Day wound down for another year, one at a time, people began to trail off to bed, weary from the fresh cold air and outings during the busy day, and stuffed full of our Mother’s delicious food.

We hope you enjoyed hearing our stories about growing up, at the Stafford house, and the ways we spent Christmas Day. The sights and sounds and smells from our childhood Christmas are something we carry with us every day.  They lift our spirits in times when life seems cold, and harsh, and unforgiving.  We need only to close our eyes and we are back on the Third Line, walking up the lane, through the yard, and entering the bright, warm kitchen.  We are home again.

Quotes and stories from Tim Stafford, Judy Stafford Ryan, Jackie Stafford Wharton, Roger Stafford, and Arlene Stafford-Wilson, and the recipe for Audry Stafford’s Chocolate Fudge, are excerpts from, “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from Our Mother’s Kitchen”

Available at:

The Book Nook & Other Treasures https://thebooknookperth.com/shop/

Spark Books and Curios – https://www.bookwormperth.com/

Mill Street Books – https://millstreetbooks.com/

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists

Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society

Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”

available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Irish Christmas in Lanark County

The Irish brought their Christmas traditions when they settled in Lanark County, in the earliest times. Our ancestor, Tobias Stafford, came in 1816, from County Wexford, Ireland, and married Elizabeth, ‘Betsy’ McGarry, who came from Mullingar Parish, County Westmeath, Ireland.

St. Patrick’s Church

Ferguson’s Falls

Christmas, in those times was a far more religious, and far less commercial holiday than it is today. Priests traveled from larger centers, like Perth, to smaller communities, and people gathered at one of the larger neighbourhood homes to hear mass, and to celebrate the birth of Christ. In 1856, St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church was built, on a gentle hill, overlooking the Mississippi River. Finally, the locals had their own church, not just to mark religious holidays, but also a place to witness baptisms, weddings, and to seek comfort at the funerals of their dearly departed.

St. Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church, built in 1856, Ferguson Falls, Ontario

Advent Candles

One of the early Christmas traditions at St. Patrick’s Church was the lighting of the Advent Candles.

Four candles were set up at the front of the church, and one was lit at each of the four Sundays leading up to Christmas.

1st Sunday of Advent

The first candle was lit with a sermon on being watchful and alert, waiting for Christ’s arrival:

“Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.” Matthew 24:42  

2nd Sunday of Advent

On the second week, the next candle was lit, with a sermon focusing on making preparations for the birth of Christ:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.’ Matthew 3:3

3rd Sunday of Advent

On the third Sunday of Advent, after the lighting of the third candle, the sermon focused on St. John the Baptist, and the foretelling of Jesus coming to earth:

“I am baptizing you with water, but one mightier than I is coming.” Luke 3:16-17

4th Sunday of Advent

Week four of Advent was the lighting of the fourth candle, and a reflection on the unwavering faith of Mary and Joseph, and a call to those who believed in what was to come:

“Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.” Luke 1:45

Thomas Stafford’s Family

Thomas Stafford, the youngest son of Tobias and Betsy, was just 10 years old when St. Patrick’s was established, and so, he attended the church as a child, and throughout his entire life, with his own children, as he remained on the ancestral Stafford property, on the 11th concession of Drummond Township.

Family of Thomas Stafford, his wife, Mary (Carroll) Stafford, seated with their eldest son, Peter in the middle row. Back row – Ann Stafford, Mary Stafford (local schoolteacher in Ferguson Falls), Thomas Patrick Stafford, and Julia Stafford (who married William Quinn), front row – Margaret Stafford, Anastasia ‘Stasia’ Stafford, and Michael Vincent ‘Vince’ Stafford, (my grandfather, named for his uncle, Rev. Father Michael Stafford, the Apostle of Temperance), photo taken 1896.

Soaking Fruit

in Whiskey

In the weeks before Christmas, dried fruits were soaked in whiskey and rum, and more alcohol was added each day as the fruit became plump and full. A large, square piece of fresh clean cloth was dipped in hot water, and rubbed with flour to make it waterproof. After two weeks of soaking, the fruit was added to a traditional cake batter, and this ‘pudding’ was tied in the cloth sack, boiled for one hour, and then hung in the pantry to ripen.

Christmas puddings were hung in cloth sacks to ripen

An Irish pioneer’s Christmas pudding

Christmas

Decorations

Back in their homeland, the Irish decorated with sprigs of holly, ivy, and other evergreens native to Ireland like Arbutus, and Yew. Once in Canada, they used the native Eastern Ontario greenery – like spruce, pine, and cedar.

Small branches of spruce and cedar were brought into the home, and laid along the mantle

A spruce tree was cut from the surrounding forests, and brought into the house about a week before Christmas. White candles were attached to the tree, and lit in the evenings leading up to Christmas.

I recall our Dad saying that he was nervous when they lit the candles on the family tree because so many house fires were caused by this practice in the Ferguson Falls area, around Christmastime, when he was a young lad.

Shiny Christmas ornaments that we know today were very rare in the early days, and most of the decorative glass ornaments were imported from Germany, were very expensive, and only available in larger towns, like Perth, or Carleton Place. Often, the ladies of the family made homemade ornaments to hang on the tree, and some were made using needle-craft, like tatting, or crochet.

Lace Christmas ornaments were hand-crafted by the early settlers

Some of the more affluent families purchased ornaments imported from Europe

Precious and costly ornaments, imported from Europe

Bloc na Nollag

burning the Yule Log

The cold dark days and nights of the winter solstice were known as “Yule” in Ireland, and most of northern Europe. Burning the “Bloc na Nollag” (Nollag pronounced ‘null-egg’), was an old Irish tradition that continued through the generations, and was common to the Irish who settled in Eastern Ontario. The men of the family dragged home the largest log they could find. After dusting off the snow, the log was placed whole at the back of the fire. This large log was supposed to last for the entire 12 days of Christmas. A small piece of the log was saved to use as kindling for the lighting of the next year’s yule log .

Yule Log

A Candle

in the Window

on Christmas Eve

All through Ireland a candle is lit and placed in the window on Christmas Eve. This tradition was brought to Canada by the settlers, and was a symbol of welcome to the Holy family. It is thought that this custom originated with the tradition of lighting the way for all travelers on the winter solstice, the longest night of the year. It is a tradition for the eldest person in the family to light the candle in the window on Christmas Eve.

A candle lit in the window on Christmas Eve, lighting the way for the Holy Family

An orange in the

Christmas stocking

According to Dad, they hung simple stockings, sometimes wool socks, without decoration, on Christmas Eve, and in the morning, the stocking would hold a few pieces of hard candy, a small toy usually made of wood, and always a lovely, ripe, Christmas orange. He said that fresh fruit was scarce when he was growing up in the 1920s, and it was a very special thing to receive a fresh juicy orange on Christmas morning.

A simple stocking with a precious fresh orange was a treat in the 1920s, in Drummond Township

Off to Church

On Christmas morning, the family got dressed up in their best clothing, hitched up the horses to the cutter, and headed to St. Patrick’s Church.

All of the families in the area donated a bit of money to the local priest, and presented it to him with thanks, at the end of the service. The custom came from Ireland and was known as the ‘priest’s box’, even though the settlers used an envelope, or folded paper together and sometimes painted colourful designs on the outside.

Envelope for a special Christmas donation for the local priest

Irish

Christmas Dinner

Many of the traditional foods from Ireland were not available to the Canadian pioneer settlers, so they made a few substitutions when needed. Although goose was the traditional bird cooked for Christmas dinner in Ireland, the settlers sometimes roasted a duck, chicken, or turkey, instead. The clove-studded baked ham was a tradition brought from the old country, and cooked in our ancestor’s homes. Stuffing was made of bread crumbs spiced with sage, onion, salt and pepper. Potatoes were always a favourite daily staple, and they were usually roasted in the fat of the duck or chicken. Roasted carrots were served, along with gravy made with the poultry drippings. The plum pudding was boiled again on Christmas Day, then a whiskey or rum sauce was poured on the top and it was lit at the table, at the end of the Christmas meal, and served as dessert.

Traditional Irish Christmas dinner with ham, turkey, stuffing, carrots, potatoes, gravy, and Brussels sprouts

Clove-studded baked ham

roasted potatoes and carrots

Fiddling Time

After dinner, the leftover food was put away, the dishes washed, and chairs were moved close to the fire, placed in a semi-circle. This was a time for music! Fiddles were played, and traditional Irish songs from the old country were sang around the fire. Stories were told of Christmas’ past, and jokes were shared, generous glasses of whiskey were poured, and the dancing of a little ‘jig’ to go along with the music was common.

The merriment went on into the wee hours, and it was a tradition for the youngest in the family to leave the home’s door unlatched, before going to bed, to give shelter to any travelers who may pass by. When the story-tellers and the musicians grew weary, and the last soul in the house finally retired to bed, it was their task to make sure that the Christmas candle was still lit in the window, to help guide the Holy Family through the long, dark, night.

And so, the traditions and customs of our Irish ancestors were passed down through the generations, from the very first settlers, to the present day. The special Christmas foods, the hanging of the stockings, the lighting of the candles for Advent, the singing of songs, the fiddling, the whiskey, the story-telling, and the lone candle in the window, lighting up the dark, cold, December night.

So, I’ll leave you with a traditional Irish Christmas blessing, and hope that you will pass along some of your own family’s customs to the next generation, from your grandparents, to your parents, to you, and onto your children, and their children. Peace be with you and yours this holy Christmas season.

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists

Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society

Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”

available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com

www.staffordwilson.com

Homecoming: Stafford House

“Hearts glowed in friendship, forged over decades,

and the Spirit of Christmas entered the house,

and walked among us.”

Christmas House Tour 2014 neighbourhood gals0001

l to r: Wendy Parker, Margery Conboy, Arlene Stafford-Wilson, Beverly Ferlatte, Betty Miller, Eleanor Paul, Heather Paul

I’ll be home for Christmas,

if only in my dreams…..

For some people it’s the music of the season, the smell of the turkey, or the glittering gifts sitting under the tree; but for me it was a special visit to the house where I grew up, a homecoming, after a long absence of twenty-two years.

It doesn’t really seem that long ago since our father passed away in 1992, and our mother moved to Perth. I almost half expected to see him coming from the garage, carrying a tangled mess of Christmas lights, asking me if I’d hold the ladder steady, while he fastened the wire clamps onto the big spruce tree at the front of the house.

When I first heard from Wendy Parker, the current owner of our former home, that it was to be part of a Christmas House Tour, my thoughts turned back to days gone by, of the heavenly smells of Mother’s baking, bright cards in the mailbox at the end of the lane, and special concerts and plays at Calvin Church. There would be eight houses in total on the Christmas House Tour, and the event was sponsored by the Canadian Federation of University Women, and the money raised would help support education in the community.

Christie Lake

Kevin and I arrived early that afternoon, with ample time to visit some of my old, familiar haunts. We drove first to Christie Lake, a place I knew well, the bridge at Jordan’s, where I’d jumped many times into the cool, clear waters. Hot days spent riding bikes with friends on the Third Line, and when that bridge was finally in sight it was like seeing an oasis in the middle of the desert. What a welcome sight it was! And even on this cold, December day, the lake appeared as serene and as lovely as it always did, calm and blue, waiting patiently for cottage season, and the laughter of little ones, the parties and music of the older ones, and a place of peace and serenity for the eldest ones.   We drove along the shore, and then headed back up the Third Line.

Jordan's Christie Lake0001

The bridge at Jordan’s Cottages – at Christie Lake – a place where we often swam as children, on hot summer days, jumping off the bridge into the cool, clear water.

Calvin Church

A visit home would not be complete without making a stop at the church where our Mother brought us every Sunday. This was where we celebrated baptisms, witnessed weddings, and met for comfort after funerals. This was the setting for the Strawberry Socials, Easter Sunday white gloves and hats, the lighting of the advent candles and Christmas Eve. The church stands proudly on Cameron Side Road, looking solid as ever, a place for meeting neighbours, friends, a place for worship, a place for solitude, and a shelter from the storms and turmoil of the outside world.

Calvin United Church December 20140001

Calvin United Church, Cameron Side Road, Tay Valley Township, Lanark County, Ontario

Railroad Tracks

We headed back to the Fourth Line and rounded the curve, up to the railroad tracks. There were many strolls along these tracks to the duck pond, watching the beavers at play, seeing the ducks return year after year, raise their babies, and leave at the end of the season.   Memories of sitting under the big tree along the tracks with my brother Roger, as we patiently placed a penny each on the rails, sat back, waited for the train to go by, then retrieved our flattened pennies. Many hours in my youth were spent waiting for trains, listening to the sounds of the lonely whistles, and hearing the rumbling and chugging down the tracks as they headed for Perth.

Tracks back the side road0001

Railroad crossing, on Perkins’ Road, near the 4th Line, Bathurst (Tay Valley Township), Lanark County

This way to the duck pond0001

A view from the railroad tracks, near the 4th line, Bathurst Township (Tay Valley  Township)

Tree near the tracks0001

The gentle slope, under the tree, near the railroad tracks, where Arlene Stafford and her brother, Roger Stafford, often sat on the hot summer days, placing a penny or two on the tracks, and waiting for the trains to go by, and then retrieving the flattened pennies.

The Creek

We continued up the side road to the little creek and as soon as I spotted it, I remembered scooping up the tadpoles in my sand pail, and then pouring them into a big glass pickle jar to set on the window ledge in my bedroom. Every spring it was a ritual to catch some of these quick, black tadpoles, or pollywogs, as we called them, and watch them for hours, swimming contentedly in the jar, until we dumped them back into the creek.

Creek behind the house0001

The little creek, on Perkin’s road, not far from the Stafford House, where the Stafford children collected tadpoles in jars, on warm spring afternoons.

Lowlands behind the house0001

The lowlands, behind the Stafford House, where all the Stafford children learned how to skate

The Lowlands

The lowlands, across from the creek were still flooded, and ice was already beginning to form. It was back on these lowlands that we all learned how to skate; not on a flat, pristine ice surface in an arena, but through the weeds, and over the bumps, and up and down the imperfections of a farmer’s field. The fact that our skates were old hand-me-downs was the least of our worries!

Field back the side road0001

We drove up the side road to the laneway and parked the car. As we walked up the lane, the slopes and curves of the land were as familiar to me as if I’d never left, and we made our way to the door and knocked.

Kevin at the Christmas House Tour0001

Kevin Wilson, at the base of the laneway, leading up to the Stafford House

Heritage Perth

Christmas House Tour

Christmas House Tour sign0001

Heritage Perth Christmas House Tour 2014

An ad for the Heritage Christmas House Tours, 2014

The Garage

Garage - Christmas House Tour0001

The garage, built by Tobias ‘Tib’, ‘Tib’ Stafford, and eldest son, Tim Stafford, in 1964.

Stafford House

Stafford House 20001

The Stafford House, view from the driveway, at the east side of the property

Decorated for

the Season

Stafford House0001

When the door opened and we stepped inside, the home was beautifully decorated for the season. Wendy’s elaborate table was laid out with her mother’s china and cutlery with festive accents fit for a holiday gathering. The whole house in fact, was lovely and bright, adorned with reds and greens and touches of gold and shimmer. As we walked through the rooms, one by one, they were warm and inviting, and almost made me forget that something was missing – the smell of fresh baked bread, a permanent aroma in our house as Mother baked daily for a family of seven.

Photo Album

There was a lovely display arranged on a table in the den, an album of our Stafford family photos and copies of ‘Lanark County Kid’ and ‘Lanark County Chronicles’. I thought that they looked very much at home in this well cared-for house, so lovingly maintained and obviously cherished.

Perkins' house from window0001

A view to the east, with the former home of Chris and Leanore Perkins framed in the wreath

Stafford family photos0001

Margery Conboy, (front), with Wendy Parker, viewing photos of the Stafford family when they lived in the house

Sunset from kitchen window0001

A view to the west, at sundown

Neighbours

Perhaps what made the house seem so much like home, after so many years away, were the familiar faces, friends and neighbours, who came to share the memories, of the things that once were; and to celebrate a new Christmas season, content and happy in each other’s company. Though Wendy’s is the newest face among us, it’s as if she’d been with us all along. Wendy is a gracious hostess, and we all had a wonderful time chatting about the house, and catching up on the news in the neighbourhood. We discovered a few years ago through Ancestry DNA that Wendy is a cousin, through the Irish McGarry family who settled in Drummond Township in 1816.

Memories

I walked through the house, room by room, and the memories of the past lurked playfully around every corner.   The house seemed to remember me, and the walls and ceilings surrounded me with love, and kept me warm and safe once again.  It was a special day, and a rare treat to be back home.

………….

Thank-you!

Heartfelt thanks to Wendy and to the members of the Canadian Federation of University Women, for making our visit possible, and many thanks also to old friends and neighbours Margery Conboy, Beverly Ferlatte, Betty Miller, Eleanor Paul and her lovely daughter Heather, for joining us on our trip down memory lane!

The Afterglow

As I continue to bask in the glow of our visit to the old house, I will leave you with this quote from Thomas Wolfe:

“But why had he always felt so strongly the magnetic pull of home, why had he thought so much about it and remembered it with such blazing accuracy, if it did not matter, and if this little town, and the immortal hills around it, was not the only home he had on earth? He did not know. All that he knew was that the years flow by like water, and that one day we come home again.”

……..

In Memory

This story –   in memory of Betty Miller  (1934-2015) – “gone, but not forgotten”

betty-miller

……..

(Heritage Perth Christmas House Tour 2014)

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists
Honorary Life Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society
Author of : “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”

books available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com

www.staffordwilson.com

Nevis Cottage

Nevis Cottage

I remember sitting in the back seat of the family car, going over the bumpy railroad tracks on Drummond Street, and asking Dad about the beautiful house, set back far from the road, in the beautiful garden setting. He said the home was called Nevis Cottage, named for the tallest mountain in Scotland, Ben Nevis. It seemed like an odd name for the place, and being a young child I couldn’t grasp why such a large property would be called a ‘cottage’, or why it wasn’t situated along the shores of a lake, like all of the other cottages I knew.

Peter McLaren

The home was built in 1840 by a respected Anglican minister, Reverend Michael Harris, who sold it to a prominent lawyer, Crown Attorney Donald Fraser. Perhaps the most well-known owners of this beautiful property were lumber baron, Peter McLaren, his wife, Sophia, and their children. The McLaren family purchased the property in 1870, along with an additional 400 acres of land beside the property.

McLaren property, as it appeared in days gone by

Peter McLaren, son of James and Margaret Headrick McLaren, married, on November 22, 1867, at the age of 39, to the lovely Sophia Lees, age 22, daughter of William Lees and Mary Playfair.

Peter McLaren doubled the size of the original dwelling to 7,700 square feet, extending the back of the original stone house. A large kitchen was added on the main floor, and several additional bedrooms, as well as servants’ quarters were added on the second floor. He also added a 4,700 square foot carriage house in 1880.

The five McLaren children:

Margaret Elsie McLaren Hall – 1869-1954

Married: November 18, 1903, to F. William Hall, M.P.P. for South Lanark, Barrister of Smiths Falls and oldest son of Francis Alexander Hall, and Harriett Frances Dunham Hall, of Perth. They lived for a while in the Perth area, and later moved to Oshawa. They had no children. Margaret died at age 85, in Oshawa.

Mary Isobel McLaren Benedict – 1874-1927

Married: at age 23, at St. James Anglican Church, Perth, June 22, 1897, to Charles Benedict, they moved to Toronto, where Charles worked at the Bank of Montreal. They had three children: Charles, born in 1900 and died as an infant, Doris Sophia, born in 1902, and Peter McLaren Benedict, born in 1907. Mary died at age 53 in Toronto.

Annie ‘Kathleen’ McLaren – 1875-1954

Kathleen chose to remain single, did not have any children, and was the last of the family members to reside at Nevis Cottage. When Kathleen passed away in 1954, age 79, she died without heirs. The McLaren estate, consisting of the grand house, the 600 surrounding acres, and all of the valuable artwork, jewelry, and fine furnishings, required the distinguished auction house of Ward-Price from Toronto, to appraise the family’s vast collection. Because she left no heirs, the estate of Kathleen McLaren caused a great deal of in-fighting, with claims to the estate and litigation that went on for many years after her death.

James Lyon Playfair McLaren 1878-1934

At age 27, James married Isabel Frances Geddes on February 14, 1906 at St. George’s church, Ottawa. Isabel was the daughter of Charles Geddes and Selina Sweetland. They had two children: Peter McLaren, born 1907, and Selina Sophia ‘Ena’ McLaren, born 1909. They moved to Springfield, New Hampshire. James passed away at the age of 57 at Springfield. The funeral was held at Nevis Cottage.

William Lees McLaren – 1880-1932

On October 14, 1910, at age 30, William ‘Willie’ McLaren married Anna Gemmill at her parents’ cottage on the Rideau Lakes. Her parents were Lawrence Gemmill and Elizabeth Kellock Gemmill. As a wedding gift, Senator (Peter) McLaren gave Willie and Anna a mining property on Otty Lake, known as Forest Lodge. They lived there and ran the mine. Willie passed away after an illness, at the Montreal hospital, at the age of 53. The funeral was held at Nevis Cottage. Willie and Anna had no children.

“William and James, were sent to a private boarding school

in Edinburgh, Scotland.” 

Peter McLaren commissioned artist John Wycliffe Lowes Forster (1850-1938) to paint his daughters, Margaret and Mary. The painting is currently housed at the Perth Museum. (Forster’s paintings are among those in the permanent collections of the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa. Some of his memorable works include portraits of Sir Wilfred Laurier, Timothy Eaton, and Sir Sanford Fleming.)

1977 House Tour

May 26, 1977, p. 12, “The Perth Courier”

In 1977, the Perth University Women’s Club organized a tour of Old Stone Houses, which included Nevis Cottage. At that time the property was owned by Mr. and Mrs. Harry Perkins.

Modern view of Nevis Estate

Today, Nevis Estate is a bed and breakfast, located at 61 Drummond St. W., in Perth, Ontario.

In 2018, this video of Nevis Estate was featured on YouTube, and gives the viewer a glimpse at the lovely interior of the home, with all of its many entertaining spaces, and large, gracious bedrooms.

To view the video:

Although Nevis ‘Cottage’ looks very different today than it did when Senator Peter McLaren and his wife Sophie occupied the house remains a lovely property and will always be one of the notable homes in Perth’s long history.

Many years have passed since I first noticed the home, as I sat in the backseat of Dad’s old Buick, face pressed against the window, in the bumpy ride over the train tracks on Drummond St. I still love to hear the stories of the old days when the McLaren family lived there. In my mind I imagine the children – Margaret, Mary, Kathleen, James and Willie, running across the wide lawns, laughing and playing in their enormous yard. I can picture smartly-dressed servants carrying cool glasses of lemonade and biscuits to Mrs. McLaren and her friends, as she entertains them on the back lawn.

As the pink sun sinks low in the sky and the day draws to a close at Nevis Cottage, we can picture Senator Peter McLaren arriving home after a long day overseeing his lumber business. He hands his cane and hat to the house maid as he enters, and greets Sophia and the children warmly, as they prepare to sit down to a sumptuous meal, in their elegant home. Another perfect evening at Nevis Cottage.

Notes:

(In 1983, a magazine called,”Canada Century Homes”, featured Nevis Cottage, as well as The Crain House, The Mill House, Inge-Va, and Matheson House)

(photo of the painting of the McLaren girls, courtesy of the Perth Museum)

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

Member, Association of Professional Genealogists

Member, Lanark County Genealogical Society

Author of 10 books: “Lanark County Christmas”, “Lanark County Comfort”, “Lanark County Collection”, “Lanark County Calling”, “Lanark County Classics”, “Lanark County Connections”, “Lanark County Calendar”, “Lanark County Chronicle”, “Lanark County Kid”, & “Recipes & Recollections”

available at local stores or email: lanarkcountybooks@gmail.com

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Late August at the Train Tracks

“Summer was now in the full glow and luxuriance of its richness”

Charles Dickens

Considering the amount of time we spent playing at the train tracks near the 4th Line, it’s a miracle that none of us was ever hurt.  Sometimes we’d take giant steps on the railway ties, spaced a little too close for a normal stride, all the while surrounding ourselves with that distinct scent of linseed oil used to preserve them. I preferred to walk on the shiny steel rails and test my balance, although the laws of gravity often won that battle, and I’d fall, stumbling onto the coarse gravel below. Although our parents never told us not to play on the tracks, I imagine they were counting on the fact that we’d have enough common sense to head for the ditch if we saw the green signal light come on, or heard the whistle off in the distance. None of us had any intention of playing chicken with a train.

Train Tracks – Perkins’ Side Road, Tay Valley Township

My brother, Roger, and I, visited the train tracks often, and in a summer ritual that went on for years, we’d each place a penny on the rails, and then sit back under a tree near the tracks, and wait for the train. Two country kids, with no particular plans for the day, and no knowledge of the train schedule, content to sit and wait, for as long as it took, to get our prize, of two flattened pennies. We had no idea at the time that we were learning an important skill that would come in handy later in life, called patience.

Arlene Stafford-Wilson and Roger Stafford, giving a bath to Mike, the family pet, at the Stafford house

The gentle slope under the tree near the tracks, where we sat and waited for the train

It’s sad to say, but kids today couldn’t duplicate this little pastime of ours even if they wanted to. There aren’t many pennies to be found these days, and even fewer kids without a mobile phone which they’d likely use to check the train schedules, removing altogether the element of surprise. After sitting under that tree for what often seemed like hours we were so excited to finally see a train come barreling down the tracks. Once the train had passed by, we’d climb down from our perch, and scramble around to find our pennies sometimes scattered in the gravel, or in the grass nearby, and never on the rails where we’d left them.

I always thought late August was the prettiest time to sit by the tracks, surrounded by the Black-Eyed-Susans, the willowy hay, and the milkweeds. There was something magical about the soft sweet scents of late summer, when the leaves overhead were their greenest, the vibrant wildflowers were at their peak, and the boisterous heatbugs buzzed and sang their songs of the season. The sun streamed down like a warm hug from above, beckoning us to play another game, wander farther down the dusty side road, and dream another dream, on those blissful childhood summer days.

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

http://www.staffordwilson.com

My Mother, she was Orange…..and my Father, he was Green

“You picked a hell of a day to get married!”

Those were the first words spoken to our mother, the day she met her new father-in-law, Vince Stafford.  He was referring to the fact that they were married on the twelfth of July. He made it quite clear that he was not pleased that his son had chosen to welcome a Protestant into their Roman Catholic family, on July 12th of all days!

Some called it Orangeman’s Day, and some referred to it as the ‘Glorious Twelfth’.  On July 12th each year, Protestant organizations celebrated the victory of Protestant King William of Orange, riding a white horse, who defeated Catholic King James, at the Battle of the Boyne in July 1690.

William white horse

The Orange and the Green

When I was a kid, the Irish Rovers recorded a song called “The Orange and the Green”, about a child growing up with one Roman Catholic parent, and one Protestant parent.  We saw them perform the song many times over on a popular television show called ‘The Pig and Whistle’, and the irony of the song was not lost on us.

Irish Rovers “The Orange and Green”

Our father, a Roman Catholic, from Drummond Township, grew up attending St. Patrick’s church in Ferguson Falls, while our mother attended Calvin United in Bathurst (Tay Valley) Township.

St Patricks and Calvin

Although the feelings of bias and animosity between these two religions may seem foreign to us in these more inclusive times, they were still very much in the forefront, during the 1940s, when my parents married. Mother said she never felt accepted by Dad’s family, particularly his parents; and that never changed even up to the late 1950s and early 1960s when the in-laws passed away.

This religious prejudice ran on both sides of the fence. I recall our cousin, Ruth Rutherford, in Ogdensburg, New York, was forbidden to marry her sweetheart, a Catholic lad, and she never got over it.  She remained single for the rest of her life, unable to marry her true love.

It may be difficult for us to imagine, but there were times in our early history in Canada where it was not uncommon for the July 12th celebrations to result in violence or even death.

Montreal Orangemen riots

‘The St. Alban’s Advertiser’, July 20, 1877, p.3

In the early years of the last century, the Orangemen’s Day parades in Canada drew crowds in the thousands, and it was not unusual for fights to break out, and insults along with injuries were to be expected.

Orange Day parade Toronto 1911

Orange Parade, Toronto, July 12, 1911

Although Orangeism originated in Ireland and England, Ogle Robert Gowan, the Order’s first Canadian Grand Master is recognized as the founder of Canadian Orangeism.  It is interesting that Gowan is known to have been a frequent visitor to a local fortune teller, Mother Barnes, the Witch of Plum Hollow. Not wishing to be seen consulting a sooth-sayer, he often sent his wife and their maid to ask questions about his politics and his career.

Orange Lodges, as the membership halls were called, sprang up all over Canada, and in Eastern Ontario, they were a common sight in almost every community.  The closest Orange Hall to our house was at Wemyss, frequently used as a dance hall, and a place to play cards and socialize.

Wemyss orange hall

  “The Perth Courier” Sept. 27, 1940, p.4

Carleton Place was one of the first communities to establish a Loyal Orange Lodge, along with Perth, Smiths Falls, and Montague Township.

Carleton Place Orange Lodge

In the early days, thousands attended Orange events:

Orange celebrations Perth 1904

“The Perth Courier”, July 8, 1904, p4

Through the decades, many community organizations also held their meetings and socials at the local Orange halls.

Drummond Centre

“The Perth Courier”, Oct. 23, 1941,p.1

Carleton Place had one of its largest crowds of visitors on July 12, 1920:

Orangeman's Day 2910

In 1921, the Orange Order agreed on several resolutions, including one intended to abolish all separate schools in Canada.

Orange resolution passed

The popularity of the Orange Order celebrations continued through the 1930s…

orangemens day 1934

“The Perth Courier”, July 13, 1934, p.1

orange order flag

Flag of Canada’s Grand Orange Order

An Orange parade was often led by one of the members on a white horse, symbolizing the white horse ridden by King William of Orange, at the Battle of the Boyne.

orange order white horse

Some of the symbols worn by members of the Orange Order

orange parade symbols

Orange Order – ‘Keys to Heaven

orange order keys

To assist in the war efforts, every Orange Lodge in Canada was turned into a recruiting office in WWII

orange lodge war efforts 1940

“The Perth Courier”, July 19, 1940, p.1

Lanark County Oranges Lodges, Active in 1946

orange lodges lanark county 1946

Lanark County – Orange Order Officers 1946

orange lodge lanark county officers 1946

“The Perth Courier”, July 18, 1946, p.1

In 1957, the Orange Day celebrations were held in Almonte, and Rev. Canon J.W.R. Meaken, shared some comments as part of his address to begin the meeting:

orange order address 1957

“The Perth Courier” July 25, 1957, p.7

Interest in joining the Orange Order began to dwindle in the 1960s and 1970s, and instead of thousands attending the annual parade, it became ‘hundreds’.

orange parade 1971

“The Perth Courier” July 8, 1971, p.1

Memberships grew smaller and smaller in many parts of the country, and in Lanark County, one of the oldest Orange Lodges, in Carleton Place, closed after 185 years, in January of 2015. The existing membership would merge with the Montague lodge # 512.  (The Grand Lodge of Ireland issued the original warrant for the Carleton Place Lodge back in 1830.)

orange lodge Carleton Place closing

Left, John Arksey, County Master for Rideau/St. Lawrence County Orange Lodges,center, Kevin Bradley, Grand Master of the Carleton Place Lodge, and Mark Alexander, provincial grand master, Ontario East, of the Grand Orange Lodge of Eastern Ontario.
“Inside Ottawa Valley” Dec 02, 2015, by Desmond Devoy, ‘Carleton Place Almonte Canadian Gazette’

At one time, there were 30 Lodges throughout Lanark County. After the closing of the Carleton Place Lodge in 2015, only the Montague Lodge and the Smiths Falls Lodge (No. 88), remained. The Almonte Lodge (No. 378) amalgamated with Carleton Place in 1987, Franktown in Beckwith Township (No. 381) in 1992, and Drummond Centre in Drummond/North Elmsley Township (No. 7) in 2013.

…………

Throughout the many decades of the celebration of Orangemen, their sometimes vocal, and occasionally violent encounters with the Catholics, our family will continue to celebrate July 12th for a different reason. July 12th, for us, was the joining of the two religions, historically separated on this date, a young Protestant girl from the west, and a handsome Roman Catholic lad from Drummond Township.

mother-and-dad-dating-in-lethbridge1

Maybe they were ahead of their time.  It was 1943 afterall, and marrying outside of one’s religion was often frowned upon.  Luckily for us, the five children that followed in this unconventional marriage, would grow up in a home where we learned to respect different opinions, different points of view, and different religions.

Christmas baking

And so, the Protestant girl, and the Catholic boy were married for almost 50 years, until Dad passed away.

I still smile when I hear that Irish Rover’s tune, “The Orange and the Green”,  and July 12th, for us, will always be a special day in our own family history.

………….

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Great Aunt Clara’s Late June Roses

June roses

Although it didn’t look like much until late in June each year, around the third or fourth week of the month, the old rosebush, planted by Dad’s Aunt Clara Richards Carberry, sprang reliably back to life.  Great Aunt Clara had planted the rosebush back in the 1940s, along our fence, on the east side of the house, under the poplar trees.

It was an uncertain time when she planted that rosebush, the years between 1939 and 1945, when World War II raged on, separating families from loved ones, and prematurely ending young lives, as they fought bravely, on the front lines in Europe.

stafford house after WWII colourized

Stafford House, 1947, after WWII

By the time that I was old enough to be aware of the rosebush, it had spread, as perennials will, and imparted a bright pink show of fragrant roses that stretched  for several yards, along the old fence.  For the entire five decades that we lived in the house, that rosebush bloomed faithfully. Without any pruning or watering, it gave us a lovely fuchsia display, each year, shortly after the summer solstice had passed, as though that was its signal to begin to bloom.

Maybe in such an unsettled time in our history, Clara wanted to create some beauty that would last; something predictable and steadfast; something she could count on.

So the rosebush bloomed like clockwork, late in June, each year for decades, watching silently from its sheltered patch under the poplars, along the fence, as one by one we finished our years in school, and left the old homestead, to go out and make our way in the world.  It watched all five of us come and go, and it thrived long past that time, for another quarter of a century, until our father passed away, and our Mother sold the house, and moved to town.

With a legacy like that, how could any of the short-lived ‘annual’ plants ever compare to this faithful old perennial, planted by Clara, so many years ago?  More importantly, how could we ever forget those bright, pink, fragrant roses, and how they graced the edge of our yard, so beautifully each year, late in June?

……

“Great Aunt Clara’s Late June Roses”, an excerpt from: “Lanark County Calendar – Four Seasons on the Third Line”, ISBN 9780987 702630

L C Calendar book cover

available at The Book Nook, Perth, ON, https://thebooknookperth.com/product/lanark-county-calendar-arlene-stafford-wilson/
Spark Books, Perth, ON,  https://sparkperth.ca/
Mill Street Books, Almonte, https://millstreetbooks.com/

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Farmer of the Week 1962-64

Holsteins

Farmer of the Week’ was a column that appeared in “The Perth Courier”, and ran from August 1962 until August 1964.  The farmers featured in these articles were chosen because they were noteworthy.  Some were prominent because of the sheer size of their operations, some were unique because of the type of farming they did, and some specialized in a style or method of farming that was deemed newsworthy at that time. No matter the reason that each of these local farmers was singled out, they were all important to our community.  Many were members of community organizations, active in their churches, and some were even politicians. The most important thing they all had in common, and a source of pride for all, was that they were farmers…..

This is a tribute to our Lanark County farmers.  Not all were featured in the local papers, but all contributed to their families, and their communities.  We are grateful for those who labour in the soil, in all weather conditions, to put wholesome food on our nation’s tables.  Thank-you!

barn

Farmer of the week banner

G. Mervyn Ferrier

Farmer of the Week – August 16, 1962

Ferrier, Mervyn 1962

Matt Burpee

Farmer of the Week – August 23, 1962

Burpee Matt

Peter Timmons

Farmer of the Week – September 6, 1962

Peter Timmons

Dave Spence

Farmer of the Week – October 11, 1962

Dave Spence

George Ferrier

Farmer of the Week – October 18, 1962

George Ferrier

Delbert Chaplin

Farmer of the Week – October 25, 1962

Delbert Chaplin

Hubert Hossie

Farmer of the Week – November 1, 1962

Hubert Hossie

Neil Stewart

Farmer of the Week – November 8, 1962

Neil Stewart

Borden Perkins

Farmer of the Week – November 22, 1962

Borden Perkins

Walter McKay

Farmer of the Week – December 6, 1962

Walter McKay

Emil Graff

Farmer of the Week – December 20, 1962

Emil Graff

Ernest Erwin

Farmer of the Week – January 10, 1963

Ernest Erwin

Clayton Hands

Farmer of the Week – January 17, 1963

Clayton Hands

George Couch

Farmer of the Week – January 24, 1963

George Couch

Donald Oliver

Farmer of the Week – February 7, 1963

Donald Oliver

Bill Allan

Farmer of the Week – February 14, 1963

Bill Allen # 1

Bill Allen # 2

James Brown

Farmer of the Week – March 21, 1963

James Brown

Arnold Long

Farmer of the Week – April 4, 1963

Arnold Long

Brian Paul

Farmer of the Week – April 11, 1963

Brian Paul

Tom Balfour

Farmer of the Week – May 2, 1963

Tom Balfour

Dr. W.J. Stinson

Farmer of the Week – May 16, 1963

W.J. Stinson

Chris Perkins

Farmer of the Week  – June 20, 1963

Chris Perkins

Chris Perkins 2

Chris Perkins 3

Mervyn Ferrier

Farmer of the Week – July 4, 1963

Mervyn Ferrier

Jan Vanden Bosch

Farmer of the Week – July 25, 1963

Jan Vanden Bosch

Burton Hands

Farmer of the Week – August 8, 1963

Burton Hands

Delbert McMullen

Farmer of the Week – August 29, 1963

Delbert McMullen

Whity Orton

Farmer of the Week – September 5, 1963

Whity Orton

Orton #2

Richard Lubers

Farmer of the Week – October 10, 1963

Richard Lubers

Cecil Dobbie

Farmer of the Week – October 17, 1963

Cecil Dobbie

Dobbie 2

John Korry

Farmer of the Week – January 23, 1964

John Korry 1

John Korry 2

A.P.C. Hopkinson

Farmer of the Week – June 4, 1964

A.P.C. Hopkinson

Tom Easton

Farmer of the Week – June 11, 1964

Tom Easton

James Carmen Gibson

Farmer of the Week – June 18, 1964

James Carmen Gibson

Pat Henretta

Farmer of the Week – June 25, 1964

Pat Henretta

Pat Henretta 2

James Drew

Farmer of the Week – July 9, 1964

James Drew 1

James Drew 2

Charles Wilson

Farmer of the Week – August 6, 1964

Charles Wilson

Simon McVeety

Farmer of the Week – August 13, 1964

Simon McVeety

Farmer quote

book cover edited resized LC Comfort (1)

Arlene Stafford-Wilson

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Lake 88 Interview

A recording of the interview as host, Lynda D’Aoust, discussed my latest book, “Lanark County Comfort: Homespun Tales to Warm Your Heart”

The book is available at:

The Book Nook & Other Treasures, 60 Gore St. E., Perth, ON 613-267-2350

Spark Books and Curios (formerly The Bookworm) at 76 Foster St., Perth, ON 613-264-7257

Mill Street Books, 52 Mill Street, Almonte, ON 613-256-9090

and online:

http://www.staffordwilson.com

Mother’s Farmhouse Sourdough

sourdough biscuits.JPG

When the cool winds signaled the beginning of a new season, Mother’s thoughts always turned to baking her mouth-watering Sourdough creations.

She had a jar of ‘starter’ that she kept in the pantry.  She’d often scoop some of the mixture out to add to her recipes, and it gave them a distinct, classic, sourdough flavour.  Every week, without fail, Mother ‘fed’ the starter, by adding more flour, milk, and sugar.

sourdough starter

Sourdough ‘Starter’

A Jar of History

Each baker’s sourdough may have years of history, as the original batch is fed and re-fed each week, to keep it active.  Sourdough creates a very individual taste, unique to each baker, depending on how often the starter is re-fed, including rest-times, air temperatures, and humidity.

Origins

Sourdough goes back many centuries, and became popular in Western Canada, back in the days of the gold rush, in the Klondike.  Conventional leavenings, like yeast and baking soda, were not very reliable in some of the harsh conditions faced by the prospectors.

prospector

Miners and pioneer settlers often carried a small pouch of starter with them, so that they could bake bread in their less than ideal camps and shelters.

Mother used sourdough in place of yeast in many of her recipes, and it gave the food a wonderful, rich, flavour.  Sometimes she shared a little container of starter, along with some of her prize-winning recipes, with the local women in DeWitt’s Corners, Glen Tay, and Christie Lake.

In addition to feeding the sourdough each week, some of the starter needed to be scooped from the jar, or the mixture would bubble up, and overflow.   This seldom happened at the old farmhouse, where Mother baked almost daily.

Sourdough bubbling

Make the sourdough starter at least two days ahead, and don’t forget to feed it once a week!

Mother’s Sourdough Starter

(feed at least once a week to keep active)

2 c all purpose flour

2 Tbsp. sugar

1 tsp. salt

2 c warm water

Mix in a non-metallic bowl

Cover with a tea towel and let stand at room temperature for two days

This becomes a spongy, bubbly mass, and develops a yeasty aroma

Refrigerate if desired, but not necessary, keeping the jar covered

Use starter for sourdough recipes

Once a Week: Add to the starter –

1 c flour

1 c milk

1/4 c sugar

Add to the starter, and stir well.

Be prepared to use it often, or if you want to stop using it for a while, cover, freeze, then thaw, and feed again when you want to resume.  Do not use for 24 hours after thawing.

sourdough biscuits complete

Sourdough Biscuits (Dad’s favourite!)

1 c sourdough (starter)

2 tsp baking powder

1 c flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/3 c vegetable oil

1/2 tsp baking soda

Mix well (until it comes away from the bowl)

Flour the board, and knead 12 times

Roll, and cut into biscuits

Allow to stand 15-30 minutes

Bake in middle of oven at 400 degrees for 10 minutes

(Raisins may be added)

For more sourdough recipes:

Sourdough Pancakes, Sourdough Cinnamon Rolls, Sourdough Cheese Rolls, Sourdough Donuts, Sourdough Light Cake, Sourdough Coffee Cake, Sourdough Chocolate Cake, Sourdough Strudel Cake: 

 “Recipes and Recollections: Treats and Tales from our Mother’s Kitchen”   ISBN 978-0-9877026-09
(available in local book stores, and online)

recipes-recollections-cover-1

An excerpt from the story, “Mother’s Farmhouse Sourdough”, in “Lanark County Collection: Winding Our Way Down Memory Lane”

LC Collection cover

“Inside the pages of this book, Stafford-Wilson shares some homespun goodness with one of her mother’s famous recipes. So famous, she said, that her mother was a red ribbon winner at the Perth Fair. The writer remembers: “There was something peculiar in the pantry … in a glass jar that seemed to have a life of its own,” 

Laurie Weir, “Perth Courier”,Sept. 7, 2020,  Book review for Lanark County Collection

Arlene in front of The Book Nook Sept 12 2020

Listen to the interview on ‘Lake 88’, discussing the sourdough recipes:

https://staffordwilson.com/interview-on-lake-88/