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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The museum also features a number of Rolls of Honour, listing the names of soldiers from the area who fought bravely for our country.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
There are also a number of displays listing those soldiers who attended specific area schools and the names of those who served.
Another of the many area schools and their lists of those in service.
The Lanark Museum has many, many of these displays, and this is only a small sampling of what is available to view.
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.
There are some really wonderful displays highlighting the Kitten Mill, and those who worked there over the years.
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.
I think that many of us remember visiting the factory outlets, and all of the wonderful knitted clothing produced locally.
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.
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.
Photo below: Julia Stafford and Bill Quinn, on their wedding day, Sept. 14, 1909.
The following, are just a few squares, a small sample from the quilt, to show how the names have been stitched and displayed.
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.
Another square of the quilt, but the quilt is enormous, and would be best viewed in person.
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!
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!
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.
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…..
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’
Available at: The Book Nook, Perth, Spark Books and Curios, Perth, Mill Street Books, Almonte