April 1, 2023 to March 31, 2024 in review

Report for the Glencoe & District Historical Society

K.W. Beecroft, President, Glencoe & District Historical Society, Dated March 31, 2024


Founded in 1978, the Glencoe & District Historical Society (G&DHS) set out on a mission to preserve the rich history of Southwestern Ontario, particularly around the Glencoe area. Ambitious projects, such as mapping local cemeteries, took place from 1978 to 1988. In 1983, G&DHS found a home in the basement of the old Andrew Carnegie Library and expanded to both floors in 1994. A substantial collection of land registry deeds was rescued in 1997, finding a secure home in the original land registry vault. The partnership restoration of the Glencoe Train Station in 2001 became a symbol of the society’s commitment to preserving local heritage. The Society is a not-for-profit volunteer organization with charitable status and a member of the Ontario Historical Society. The Society was founded upon a Constitution, which continued to define our operational structure

The 2018 relocation of the Glencoe library allowed the Society to shift to the old land registry office and library at 278 McKellar Street, inadvertently returning the land deed collection to its original home, now known as The Archives. Facing the challenge of preserving historical materials in a digital world, G&DHS actively educates and lobbies for administrative and archival support, supported by a membership of 70 individuals and backing from the Municipality of Southwest Middlesex.

Our objectives are:

  • To promote, encourage and foster the study of local history and genealogy, including original research. We encourage, support and solicit research information on heritage buildings in our District. We lend our support to other community groups who are active and interested in the preservation and restoration of heritage buildings.
  • To provide and maintain a local archival repository for the collection and preservation of books, manuscripts, typescripts, charts, maps, photographs, journals, Photostats, microfilms, tapes and artifacts.
  • To reproduce some of the presentations presented to the Society, as well as other research and materials.
  • To provide education through newsletters, presentations, social media and participation in local and surrounding area events. 

General

Members actively document thousands of graves, contributing to the extensive database on the Find-a-Grave website. G&DHS has digitized 2300 wills and maintains a list of obituaries and births dating back to the 1870s. 

The society actively collects and preserves local artifacts, showcasing rotating displays and a captivating train display on Main Street. G&DHS initiated the outdoor rural mural project, creatively showcasing old photos of the district.

Operating three days a week, G&DHS opens its doors to the public, offering free access to historical materials. The Society maintains a popular Facebook Page and a website featuring video recordings and written entries about presentations and projects.

G&DHS reaches out to local schools and is implementing a volunteer and community service program.  We also encourage partnership initiatives with our local Comprehensive Library.

The Society offers research services provided by unpaid volunteers, with proceeds directed towards maintaining Society resources.

G&DHS actively supports neighboring heritage organizations, fostering a deep appreciation for Southwestern Ontario’s rich history. The Society aims to turn barn quilts into an interactive tour, celebrating vibrant history and community expression, as well as placemaking for a deeper connection for visitors to rural communities. 

This year’s membership were realigned to exist on a calendar year basis instead of a fiscal year. Therefore, membership renewals will be valid until December 31st, 2024.

It should be noted that although during the past year, G & DHS did enjoy normal activities, as the Covid 19 pandemic was long behind us. Are doors are again open. Letters were issued during the year to encourage membership renewals, and to outline an ambitious Program of Events for our members and patrons. Consequently our membership was sustained. It is noted as a trend now, service fees revenues for research services for family research were still somewhat reduced. This may be attributed to people going online and searching themselves with all the new available resources. Consequently, again during the past year, as a not for profit organization, it has been a difficult. Our Financial Report may detail some of this later.

As you recall during our previous year, our Society had undertaken a project for the manufacture and installation of identification signs in all of the active and abandoned cemeteries within SWM. Our plan called for 30 signs within SWM, and three outside of SWM, but within our area. Hykut Signs was our local manufacturer. These standardized signs outline to the public, the name of area cemeteries and when they were established. We have identified and signed the forgotten ones also, so that our pioneer ancestors will be remembered. This year, we concluded this project by getting these signs installed. Our partnership with the Municipality of Southwest Middlesex allowed this to happen. Our Society funded the manufacture of the signs, while SWM covered the installation.

Another Project involving Hykut, which was completed this past year, was our Heritage Mural Project. In 2022, G & DHS was successful in applying and being approved for a Grant from Middlesex County, within their “Makeover Middlesex 2022” program. This grant funding provided resources for three photographic wall murals of historic significance. These murals provide a cultural reminder to our past and act to enhance tourism and heritage interests here in SWM. Two of the murals chosen for this project were the old Glencoe Post Office and the Old Town Hall.  The other mural was of Strathburn. None of the subject buildings exist now.  The three murals were on prominent display in Leonhard Schuko’s storefront window at 212 Main St. This past year, Society volunteer’s erected two of the murals on exterior walls of the Archives, while the Strathburn mural was installed in Strathburn Park on Longwoods Road. Mural installations were funded solely by our Society.

Need for a County Archive

Our Society over the past several years, including 2023-2024, continues to be actively involved in the pursuit of the establishment of a Middlesex County Archive. Middlesex County is one of only a very few counties in southern Ontario that does not have a specific County Archive. Middlesex County has no official mechanism for the preservation, storage and archiving of historical documents and artifacts, both public and private. As a volunteer Society, we have neither the resources nor the knowledge to provide the level of service, which would be adequate. To this end, we will continue to work with other colleague organizations within the County. We are actively engaged in the Committee To Establish a Middlesex County Archives has a mission to promote the idea of establishing a Middlesex County Archives.  This is a County-wide alliance who is very worried about the future of our volunteer-held archives sprinkled throughout Middlesex.  The committee called CEMCA recommends that a Middlesex County committee study the issue. CEMCA can offer experts in the field to help. There are local people dedicated to this project. People are ready to help with funding and fundraising, finding available grants etc. Always know we are there to help.

Another initiative which we have been involved with, has been our interest in the preservation efforts of the Campbell House, at A.W. Campbell Conservation Area in nearby Brooke Alvinston. The project is spearheaded by the Friends of Campbell Park. We have attended meetings, including ZOOM sessions. This project will continue into the coming year.

G & DHS has been contacted during the past year, in order to support an initiative put forward by Architectural Conservancy of Ontario (ACO). This initiative would start a Chapter of ACO for Middlesex County. At this time, the London Chapter does not cover the County. Things appear to have stalled but may continue into next year.

Interactive Barn Quilt Trail Project

For years, the barn quilts have intrigued and mystified travelers moving through the beautiful countryside in southwestern Ontario.  However, the stories behind these artworks, their locations, and their connection to the region’s history and community are often overlooked.

In February 2024, four groups applied for funding from the Canadian federal Tourism Growth Fund to enhance the Barn Quilt Trails, a grassroots arts movement in Southwestern Ontario. These groups include the Glencoe & District Historical Society, Creative Communities and the barnquilttrails.ca, the Chippewa of the Thames cultural group, and EXAR Studios.

If funded, the project aims to transform the Barn Quilt Trails into a tourism experience and digital capacity-building initiative. It will spotlight artistic, historical, and cultural landmarks in rural communities, with a particular focus on the Chippewas of the Thames First Nation and the Thames River valley.

The project will create a storytelling portal, facilitating the creation and sharing of location-based stories by communities. These experiences will be accessible through the Engage ARt application, which will feature interactive maps for tourism and placemaking organizations across Southwestern Ontario.

John and Elizabeth Simpson Geneology

In the pursuit of preserving the history and genealogy of a few descendants of John and Elizabeth Simpson started meeting to:

  • trace out the genealogy for the descendants of John and Elizabeth Simpson, connecting past and present generations.
  • describe and organize the paper archives held by descendants, ensuring they are preserved for future generations and organizations.
  • determine which materials should be organized online and to develop strategies for their digitization and accessibility.
  • preserve anecdotal stories from our memories and those handed down to us, capturing the rich narrative of our family history.

This project began when Wendy Simms Bestward discovered that there was no information about this large family here in The Archives.  The historical society is grateful to Micheline Champagne-Johnston, Brian Huis, Wanda Simpson, Mary Simpson, and Wendy Bestward for ensuring the preservation of this family legacy and hopes some of the archival materials will be placed here in the Archives for safekeeping. 

Collaborating with Heritage Groups in the region

G&DHS is part of a strong network of heritage organisations that have come through the pandemic and are building back stronger.  

We are proud to support and promote the work of the Strathroy & District Historical Society, the Tyrconnell Heritage Society (Backus Page Museum), the local chapter of the London & MIddlesex Branch of the Ontario Geological Society, Middlesex Centre Archives, Friends of Campbell House, Architectural Conservancy Ontario and the Ontario Historical Society.  

Monthly Member’s Presentations and Meetings – We were very pleased this year that our normal monthly Member Meetings and presentations, usually followed by business meetings and attended by the public and members were continued to the most part, however several prentations were not followed by a meeting. Again because of technical achievements, our ZOOM capabilities continue to improve. This area continues to evolve.

In an effort to maintain the business of G & DHS and to encourage momentum and innovation, the frequency of Executive Meetings was sustained during the year. There were at least ten Executive Meetings conducted in 2023/ 2024 with recorded Minutes taken related to planning of G & DHS activities. Again, these were conducted in the mornings of every second Tuesday of the month.

The G & DHS Website and Facebook by a dedicated sub committee which again focussed on media planning. This still allowed us contact with members and the public.

The focal point of our educational program this past year-

GLENCOE & DISTRICT HISTORICAL SOCIETY 2023-2024 Program Presentations-

March 15, 2023 – “Scots Gaelic – Past, Present and Future”. About 60 people, turned up for a Gaelic lesson in the beautifully preserved one-room historic schoolhouse in the Tait’s Corners Community. Gaelic expert Trevor Aitkens, taught some basic words and expressions and explained the meaning of familiar given names, surnames and place names in our community. This was a partnership event held at Tait’s School. It was presented by Trevor Aitken, noted expert in the Gaelic Language. Gaelic, was common in our area during the settlement period. 

Gaelic originated in Scotland in 500 AD and was in common use up until the battle of Culloden in 1746. After this point, support waned for the language to the point where it was in danger of becoming extinct.  During the latter half of the 19th century, it was the 3rd most spoken language in Canada and actually had a bill tabled in the Senate to become an official language.

Trevor Aitkens grew up in Brooke township, Lambton County, and lived with his grandmother who spoke Gaelic.  He regrets now that he didn’t take it up at the time. He studied a number of other languages but realized later that he needed to pay homage to his own heritage. Trevor stumbled upon a night school offering in Mississauga in 1998 and took up a 25-year learning period with the language. We look forward to future partnership events with Tait’s Community.

Trevor Aitken teaches a gaelic lesson at the old Tait’s Corner’s school house

April – G & DHS over the past number of years has participated in Middlesex Centre Archives’ “Heritage Fair” in Delaware. This is a great opportunity to display who we are and to network with other area history organizations. This one day event is free to the public. 

April 19 – Open House to Celebrate 45 years.

A good crowd was in attendance for an afternoon open house and members returned in the evening for the 2022 Annual General Meeting (AGM) of the Glencoe and District Historical Society. Once the evening business was complete, a show and tell featuring historical items provided by attendees wrapped up the busy day.  Our AGM is an annual event outline by our Constitution. This year there were no designation of Society Officers.

May 17 – “Let’s Talk Black History”. We were pleased to welcome Shannon Prince, the longtime champion and curator of the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum.  An online audience connected with Shannon via Google Meet and we learned about the Underground Railroad and the Buxton community.  Shannon Prince retired as the Curator of the Buxton National Historic Site & Museum this year. She is a descendant of the early fugitive families that came to Canada for freedom and opportunity. She actively farms in Buxton with husband Bryan and their four children.  G & DHS would encourage everyone to visit this marvelous resource.

July 13 – “Peter MacArthur’s Kick off 100 Years since Peter MacArthur’s Death”

The Executive met for lunch with Donny Sinclair, the story keeper of our “Ekfrid Sage”, Peter McArthur.  Mr. Sinclair has kept Mr. MacArthur’s history alive for decades.  We planned activities for the coming year to commemorate 100 years since he died.  John Sinclair, Donny’s grandson, who lives on the McArthur farm, now retains the McArthur archives and book collection. 

Donny Sinclair – history keeper of the Peter MacArthur legacy

July – Tartan Days in Glencoe, over the past several decades, has been a unique opportunity for the community to celebrate its Gaelic heritage and allow the people of Glencoe and area to get involved in local activities and have some fun. For us this year, we decided to host an open house event at the ARCHIVES. It was a truly historic Saturday for the Glencoe and District Historical Society. After numerous visitors made their way to the Archives throughout the morning, a ceremony was held at 1:00 pm, celebrating the 150th anniversary of the incorporation of the Village of Glencoe, the belated 200th anniversaries of the Townships of Mosa and Ekfrid, the 170th anniversary of arrival of the first train in Glencoe and the 45th anniversary of the Society itself.

This year, our district celebrated a number of anniversaries:

  • 200 years since Ekfrid Township and Mosa Township was incorporated (1821)
  • 170 years since early days of Dundonald (Glencoe) building homes and businesses along the rail line (1853)
  • 125 years since the Glencoe Town Hall was built (1898) and the cornerstone was laid. 
  • 150 years since the Incorporation of the Town of Glencoe in 1873
  • 100 years since the Glencoe Library was built by the Carnegie Foundation (1923.
  • 60 years since Quad County school and Mosa Central School opened at Pratt Siding (1963) 
  • 45 years since the Glencoe & District Historical Society was established in 1978.  

July – Each year, also in July, we like to take time to honour those who came before us by conducting Memorial Service at an area cemetery. This past year it was held at Kilmartin Cemetery, Metcalfe Township, where we enjoyed a warm but iffy weather Sunday afternoon with about 25 people present.  We were only slightly hampered by the afternoon’s brief rainfall. After setting up and beginning the ceremony outdoors, those in attendance hastily made their way indoors for the duration. Power was restored to the sanctuary midway through the service and the sun was shining by the end, providing an opportunity for guests to tour the cemetery. The history of the Cemetery was provided by Kilmartin Cemetery Board chair, Louise Campbell.  We are planning this event for July 2024 for Appin Cemetery in Ekfrid Township.

September Labour Day Weekend – September started off with us and our display and presence at the Backus Page House Annual Farm Heritage weekend. Thanks to our volunteers, we were able to provide our travelling display inside for the two day event. This certainly a worthwhile event for families. We hope to again attempt this event in 2024.

September – Glencoe Fair always allows an opportunity for G & DHS to put on a display of historical material. Like last year, because of construction regarding the arena, the G & DHS display table was set up in a large pavilion tent provided by the Fair Board.  This was a great opportunity to interact with the public and have books for sale, and have a visual display of photos and artifacts from the area. Our historians are also available to provide judging for historical categories of competition. We are again hopeful that in 2024, we can continue.  

 October 17 –   “From Polar Bears to No Bears, A 15,000 Year History” A good crowd, both in person and online, took in the first meeting of the fall for the Glencoe and District Historical Society. Guest speaker for the evening, Larry Cornelis, took guests on a journey from the time that this area was covered by an ice shield. Larry told the story of the impacts and challenges faced by our local forests and landscapes over the last 15,000 years. This includes climate change at both ends of that time frame, the advancement of ecosystems north, indigenous land care and European colonization, extensive habitat loss and the extirpation of many native species across our region. Larry just published a book, Trees, Forests and Nature, in Southwest Ontario, so we will also launch this gorgeous book that explains our own beautiful backyard here in the Great Lakes Region.

November 11 – “ Remembrance Day” G & DHS always participates and lays a wreath in tribute to those who served during Canada’s wars and military conflicts.

November 15, “What does Sacrifice look like?” Master Corporal Rick Patterson took us on a tour of his career in the military from Army Cadets until his Medical release. Cpl. Patterson spend over 34 years in the military.  He told us stories about the challenges and sacrifices he made, protecting Canada.  His CV includes:

  • Commendations for safety and first aid.
  • Deployments: OPDANACA, UNEF 2, 73 Service Battalion and OP PALADIUM, ROTO 1 SFOR.
  • Serving Member of The Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St. John of Jerusalem
  • Diploma as a Social Service Worker. 
  • Sergeant-at-Arms, Branch 219 The Royal Canadian Legion Reg Lovell.
Rick Patterson, Sargeant at Arms, Glencoe Legion and Ina Nelms

January 17, 2024 – “Ancestral Odyssey: A Voyage of Discovery of Our Scottish Ancestors”

Doug Ferguson traced his voyage of discovery of his Scottish ancestors from Argyllshire and Inverness to Aldborough, Mosa, and Ekfrid, including a memorable visit to Scotland.

Doug grew up in Brooke Township and is a lawyer in London. He taught for many years at the Faculty of Law at Western University, and was president of Covent Garden Market when it was rebuilt in downtown London. He has many connections and recollections of Glencoe.

Doug Ferguson shares his family history

February 19 Monday 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. – “Family Day at the Archives” In coordination with the Glencoe Comprehensive Library and SWM’s Celebrate Community Committee, the Archive was open to the public and focussed upon family drop ins. Free cupcakes, cookies and movie posters were available. An interactive display of old toys, games, activities, school books and examples of cursive writing were put out on tables. Next year’s event could be publicized better.

February 22 – “Peter McArthur: Our Famous Canadian – 1866 – 1924”  A large crowd attended the Glencoe and District Historical Society Archives to experience Peter McArthur, the “Sage of Ekfrid”. It would appear that McArthur is as popular today as he was over 100 years ago. In addition to 30 viewing online, over 50 turned up in person. Norm McGill welcomed guests before president Ken Beecroft made some announcements. Kosta Vaklev offered a reading by McArthur before historian Harold Carruthers described his lifelong interest in the farmer/author.

Joining from Ireland, guest speaker Stephanie McDonald, described McArthur’s life and works, focussing on the last 16 years of his life after he moved back to the home farm in Ekfrid Township. Another long- time McArthur enthusiast, Don Sinclair closed the afternoon event, speaking about his connection to McArthur through the home farm and, in particular, the demonstration woodlot where McArthur wrote about his unique appreciation for rural life and  nature.

March 6, 2024 – A revised Memorial Service to remember those who sacrificed at the Battle of the Longwoods in 1814 was resumed this year, at 1:45 p.m. on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, at Battle Hill National Historic Site, 2945 Longwoods Rd, Southwest Middlesex. The Upper Thames Military Re-inactment Society was present, along with a number of G & DHS members and other interested individuals. In all, there were about 65 people present. O.P.P. presence on Longwood’s Road maintained traffic safety. There were about 25 memorial wreaths laid, including one from us. The usual soup and fellowship event after service was re-instated this year at the Anglican Church in Wardsville, and enjoyed by those who attended. It was funded by a free will offering.

The Battle of The Longwoods has always been observed as being a significant local historical event that has played a strong role in the interests of the G&DHS. Betty Simpson, former member of G&DHS, was intrigued by the placement of wreaths at Battle Hill Memorial about 25 years ago. When she found out that the Upper Thames Military Re-enactment Society had honoured the fallen of the Battle of the Longwoods of October 1813, she insisted that the local community be invited.  She would have been thrilled to learn that four local Legions and many other groups placed wreaths this past March.  After Betty died JoAnn Lucas Galbraith resumed the task of lining up the families and community groups placing a wreath at the memorial on the first Sunday of March. 

April 17. 2024 – G & DHS “Annual General Meeting” represents G&DHS’s 46th anniversary. A wonderful achievement for our organization. Election of Officers were conducted two years ago, so it’s time again for some new direction for the Executive Committee. The Executive Committee of our Society ensures governance, risk management, strategic planning, and partnerships, embracing asset-based community development to leverage local skills, encouraging the next generation’s participation. New members are always welcome to step forward and offer their talents. Our existing Executive members don’t plan to disappear. We’re always handy to help guide the Society forward. 

In Memoriam

This was a sad year, recently with the loss of our Past President, Lorne Munro. His knowledge of local people and our community in general will be truly missed. For everyone who knew Lorne, knew that he was a real gentleman and source of knowledge. He missed his wife Phyllis who passed away last autumn. He loved his family, his church and his community.

We also share grief with our historian from Wardsville Ken Willis. who lost his wife Sandi, also last autumn.

Partnership with Municipality of Southwest Middlesex

G&DHS and Municipality of Southwest Middlesex have an agreement for the use of the facility at 178 McKellar Street. This has proved to be a very positive arrangement for both parties involved. There is room for G & DHS meetings, restoration workshop, a sales area, an office, stacks for books, documents and artifacts along with special collections, microfilm library, and archival space for artifacts. Key also for the move is that the precious property records again make their home in the original Registry Office, which we now call “The Vault”. 

Our wonderful facility allows us to host educational Program activities onsite, as we now have everything available –access, washrooms, seating capacity and parking. We are also pleased to say that we share our facilities with other community organizations, on a revenue neutral basis. Organizations such as local cemetery boards, such as Oakland and Eddie, and Southwest Middlesex’ “Celebrate Community Committee” have conducted their routine members’ meetings at 178 McKellar Street.

What’s on the Horizon for G & DHS in 2024 – 2025?

We at G & DHS are proud of the achievements of our members as related to the promotion of history and keeping heritage alive in our community. Without the help of volunteers, any organization such as ours would not exist. Let’s all work together to support our institutions and maintain our heritage.

We hope to move ahead with further Program ideas and initiatives that will be informative and educational for our members and the public. We plan to have at least five or six member’s meetings which may not always have a Program Presentation with it. We will be involved in several events, which have been mentioned that we normally attend or sponsor annually. Hopefully, we can again present an “Open House” event where we can invite people in, and see what we’re about. All of this, of course is reliant upon volunteer involvement. None of us get paid, and we totally rely on volunteer time, talent and resources.

We also intend to continue with our relationships with other area historical organizations, and participate and promote events of common interests. We are also pleased to be involved with Backus Page House in Elgin County. Certainly, the Wardsville Museum and Ekfrid Museum are also close partners. We also partner with initiatives presented by the Glencoe Comprehensive Library.

We continue to give a safe home to documents, photographs and artifacts of local historical significance, which have been donated to us by area residents and Society members. These items are generally catalogued and stored by our volunteers, but often are displayed, to be enjoyed by others.

Looking ahead in summary

We are centred on lifting up the next generation and making history engaging and accessible to all. Here’s what we are thinking: 

  • Talent Engagement: We will invite skilled local individuals to contribute to our history passions, building teams around their interests and delegating authority.
  • Building Relationships: We will connect with our youth, our membership and establish close, working relationships with local groups, regional heritage organizations, our elected representatives and staff from Southwest Middlesex and the County of Middlesex.
  • Enhanced Decision-making: We will ramp up our outreach efforts and mobilize an IT circle to support improved communication and decision-making within our organization.
  • Digital Preservation: We will digitize and record our stories, curate, preserve, upload, and share them using more effective platforms than traditional social media groups.
  • Dynamic Governance: Learning and implementing business, human resource and dynamic governance tools to empower volunteers, share the work, and have fun!
  • Intergenerational Connection: We will bring together elders and youth to tell all the stories spanning 10,000 years of local history, fostering a sense of place-making and community.
  • Cultural Network: Establishing a cultural network will link history with tourism, nurturing and supporting arts in heritage and cultural communities.
  • Barn Quilt Trail Project: Leading the interactive Barn Quilt Trail project, supported by FedDev Government of Canada, will connect our cultural assets to local tourism strategies and investments along the Thames River Watershed arts corridor.
  • Delegation and Empowerment: Updating and revising our bylaws, building closer ties with the Ontario Historical Society, and enhancing our organizational structure will strengthen our foundation.
  • Branding: Engaging a branding dream team to undertake an agile branding process for our organization, the interactive Barn Quilt Trail, and other projects will ensure cohesive branding and messaging.

We aim to encourage everyone in our community to care about history through collaboration, shared decision-making, and most importantly, having fun!

We hope that our volunteer sub-committee will move forward with cataloging and inventorying. We will continue to work with standardizing our approach to the handling and storage of archival material. These activities are viewed as being an activity to be focussed on again in the coming year with the involvement of our members. Active involvement of member volunteers is certainly appreciated. Without folks being involved, our Society doesn’t prosper.

In closing, the 2023/ 2024 year was full of challenges, but also was quite rewarding. I have enjoyed my four years as G &DHS President and wish the new Executive Committee the most success in the coming year.

K.W. Beecroft, President, Glencoe & District Historical Sociey

Dated March 31, 2024