The art of weaving has stood the test of time and it's appeal is alive and well in Lanark County. Precious relics of fabric and weaving tools remain from the early days of settlement. Visitors to the Middleville and District Museum marvel at the evidence of early technology in the barn frame loom, the spinning wheel and the collection of yarn winders on display. As the settlers packed their trunks to cross the ocean centuries ago, they included the tools they would need to continue their trade in the new land. They brought along small parts of looms and spinning wheels to recreate the larger structures in their new homes using wood from the forest around them. They also brought their knowledge of patterns and dyes. They learned to incorporate new sources of colouration for their wool and linen using what they found in their surroundings.
Before they had the means to care for a flock of sheep in the harsh conditions, the settlers planted flax seeds and harvested the crop to produce linen fiber for weaving the cloth they needed. It was a long and arduous process, but the settlers had limited choices. Little money and isolated conditions meant they had to produce their own fabric in the early days.
The Middleville Museum has a display of tools used to process flax plants into linen thread.
Drop by the Museum to view these tools of the weaving trade and learn how linen was made in the wilds of Canada two centuries ago. You'll also see some examples of the beautiful fabrics that have been preserved for several generations on display.
The Middleville and District Museum has plenty to offer fans of traditional music in their Music Exhibit.
From the legend of Fiddler's Hill (present day Watsons Corners) to the collaboration on The Rosetta Violin, the importance music played in the lives of the early settlers of Canada is brought to life in two examples of how the sounds of someone playing a finely tuned instrument was used to break the lonely silence of the new land and to soften the darkness of the night.
The story lives on of a talented young man, believed to be Alexander Watt, and how he eased the anxiety of his fellow travellers on a dark and lonely night in the wilds of Dalhousie Township. The settlers were weary from their long and arduous journey and held little hope of finding a suitable place to build a life amidst the dense forest. His familiar Scottish tunes reminded them of their homeland and calmed their fears. In the light of the next day, they made their way to their new land.
The Scottish homeland was on the mind of Alexander Crichton when he visited the Morris family in Rosetta. An amateur violin maker, Crichton mused of crafting a violin by combining the cedar of Rosetta with some bird's eye maple of Scotland. He persuaded his friend, William Morris, to send a block of cedar of detailed specifications to him after he returned to Scotland. Morris obliged and a very unique violin was the result. The violin made its way back to Rosetta and was played to keep the traditional Scottish tunes in the memories of those who had left the homeland's distant shores. This special violin is on display at the Middleville Museum for visitors to enjoy.
Music also played a part in community building. The end of a long day of work at a neighbourhood bee was celebrated by a generous meal and the lively sound of a few fiddles that got the dancing started and lasted well into the night.
Like most communities of the day, Middleville had a few local bands to entertain at local events. They even had an organized fundraiser featuring a programme of vocal and instrumental music in 1910 to help pay for 'granolithic' sidewalks to be built.
The Middleville Museum's music exhibit features the exquisite 1896 Rosetta Violin, a dulcimer, a cello, a concertina accordion, a Victor record player and two flutes. Drop by to see these beautiful instruments preserved for music lovers to enjoy.
Compiled with information from The Rosetta Violin story by C. Smith
200 years ago, Younge’s Schoolhouse welcomed children through its doors in the settlement of Middleton (present day Middleville). Not much is known about this building except that it was also used to hold meetings to decide community affairs. We are aware of its existence through a reference in early Presbyterian Church records kept by the church secretary, James Penman, in 1821, detailing a meeting held in this log building. Younge was a family name well known in the nearby Rosetta area. Why the school was known as Younge’s School is uncertain. Local historians believe this school stood across from the old village pump on Main Street just south of the present day United Church (Trinity). Today, that would be approximately three houses down from the Church. When it was first constructed, the school house was used for many purposes as was the reality in most small settlements of the day due to necessity. Getting even one community building erected was a huge feat. As time went on, other buildings would be added to the growing community. We are left to imagine what school was like for those first pupils in attendance. The curriculum would have centered on the Bible and a few approved texts held in high regard brought along from the old country. We know from accounts of early schools that the rules would have been strict and severely enforced. The history of this school remains mostly a mystery.
The second school was a frame structure that stood in the vicinity of the corner of Concession 6 (Lanark Twp) and Galbraith Road. In 1861, a stately, two-story, stone building was constructed just a little further north on Concession 6. It reached the peak of its attendance in 1868-69, when the teacher, John McKeown instructed 103 registered students. What is even more amazing is that the second story had not been finished and was not yet in use. By January of 1869, Mr. McKeown’s sister was hired as his assistant. As the years progressed, the upstairs was opened and accessed by a ladder. Two stoves kept students warm and also served as cookstoves for hot lunches and to dry wet mittens on snowy winter days. Indoor washrooms were added as a step up from the outdoor privy. This would have been a luxury not found in many rural schoolhouses of the time.
The legacy of schoolhouses in Middleville is alive and well with the continued caretaking of the old stone building that still welcomes children and adults alike to learn as they discover and reconnect with artifacts preserved for the enjoyment of generations to come.
Visit the Middleville schoolhouse to see school life as it was in years gone by at the Middleville and District Museum.
Open: Saturdays, Sundays and Holiday Mondays 12 – 4 pm.
Compiled with information from Presbyterian Church Records cited by R. Penman, school history written by C. Smith and Log Book of Middleville Public School by A. MacIntosh
No matter what your favourite season, The Middleville and District Museum’s Sports and Entertainment Exhibit has many pass-times you’ll recognize and even a few you might not. Of course, baseball and hockey have been popular through the years. Skates, sleds, skis and snowshoes also kept local youth engaged during snowy days.
The boys of summer played ball in many of the small towns and villages of Middleville, Hopetown, Clayton, Watson’s Corners, Poland, Lanark and Perth. Union Hall even had a strong team widely known in the area as The Tigers. They had a successful season in 1920. Check out their win/loss record. You may even recognize a few family names on the team roster.
Visit the Museum to find out more about how people spent their leisure time in years gone by.
It’s hard to believe that this Saturday, August 21st marks the tenth anniversary of a very special day in the memories of former students of the old, one-room rural school houses that dotted the landscape of Lanark Township and surrounding areas.
The late 1960’s brought a significant change to local communities. This time period saw the closure of the beloved, one-room school houses and the arrival of big, yellow buses crisscrossing dirt roads while carrying children to the urban areas where the newly built schools had several hundred students studying under one roof.
The Middleville and District Museum began in the early ‘70’s in the school house of that community. The old walls still beckon memories from former students who visit, recounting the exact spot where they sat at a desk and listened to their teacher.
Back in August of 2011, the Middleville Fairground was full of former students and even a number of former teachers from around the district all remembering those days gone by with fondness. Pictures and memories were shared at a School Reunion during the day as students re-connected and reminisced.
Each of the former schools in the area was featured at the reunion, each having a team of representatives gather information and create displays of books, report cards, student work, photos and artifacts such as the old school bell or a slate. Former students dug into their stash of keepsakes and brought out items tucked away for many years.
The schools included in the reunion were: Boyd’s (SS #11), Bulloch’s (SS #3), Ferguson’s Falls (SS #8), Galbraith (SS #10), Herron’s Mills (SS #5), Hopetown (SS #13), James (SS #12), Middleville (SS #6), Pine Grove (SS #4), Rosetta (SS #9)
Why not mark the anniversary of this special day with a visit to the Middleville and District Museum to once again stroll down memory lane? The Museum has binders commemorating the reunion and many pictures and books to spark a memory or two. You can browse through some old school books and recall how it used to be.
As appeared in the Lanark Era (Sep 2008)
Lanark teacher was thwarted in her attempt to expose the injustices of Canada’s residential school system
“Remembered Heroes” by Donna Sinclair is reprinted with permission from the United Church Observer, July/August 2000. It was first published in the Lanark Era, Sept. 5, 2000, and is reprinted again this year, as the federal government is now offering compensation to people who were forced to attend these schools.
By Donna Sinclair
Lucy Affleck was 44 years old when she took up a teaching position at Round Lake Indian Residential School near Stockholm, Sask. It was 1929. That was the year she became a hero of the United Church, although few people knew it at the time.
She was – as a distant relative, United Church minister Rev. George Affleck described her years later – “a remarkable person, an intellectual, totally honest in her thinking.”
That honesty led her to write a passionate, five-page confidential letter to the Superintendent of Home Missions, Dr. Alfred Barner, in Toronto after she had been at Round Lake only a few months.
Ms. Affleck was appalled at the living conditions of the children: small children (from tuberculosis-wracked communities) shivering in a chilly hallway, lined up in their nighties to receive cough medicine; no heating fires in the building, “except for the day the inspector visited” during a wet and windy autumn; donated quilts sold instead of used; boys with “no underwear of any kind”; girls – all 52 of them – lined up to wash in two basins still containing the water they had used the night before.
Ms. Affleck deplored the gap between the Christian values the school proclaimed, and reality: the “prayers are meaningless … all the religious knowledge these little Indians get is a matter for form only. Of a Gospel of love and light they hear nothing.”
Her letter to Dr. Barner was dated Oct. 3. Steps would be taken to remedy the situation, he replied. But just over a month later, Ms. Affleck wrote again to say she had been called to the principal’s office. “Your cheque is there on the desk; the truck will take you to Whitewood tomorrow,” the principal had said.
She asked if there was any explanation.
“None, except the church demands the immediate dismissal of anyone disloyal to the staff.”
When she protested that she had reported “only conditions that should not exist and to the proper authorities,” he said, “You may take either a morning or an afternoon train.”
Ms. Affleck belonged to a select group of women who, at different times and place, paid a price for trying to bring a gentler vision to the schools: Elizabeth Shaw, for example, fired from the school in Port Simpson, B.C., for a letter of protest she wrote in 1898; Ilma Dunn, fired from Port Simpson 32 years later for playing basketball with native students and visiting in their homes.
For her part, Ms. Affleck was philosophical. “I was quite the only one who could afford to lose her job over the affair,” she said later.
She returned to her family home in Lanark, Ont. remaining there until she died in 1949, living simply, writing widely-printed editorials for The Lanark Era.
“Every time I was home, it was a treat to talk with her,” George Affleck says, “She was interested in everything going. Especially theological discussions. Especially about how the Bible related to life today.”
Congratulations to the Lanark County Genealogical Society (LCGS) on their 40th anniversary!
We also would like to thank the LCGS for having invited us to speak at their monthly meeting yesterday. We look forward to collaborating with the LCGS in the future.
Lanark, ON – Over the years, the Middleville and District Museum has become a popular destination for residents and visitors alike who want to learn more about the community’s past. And to help the museum remain a vital part of the area in the long-term, some upgrades were needed. Thanks to a $24,900 Capital grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) last year, the museum has upgraded its plumbing and electrical systems, and made the building more accessible.
“I am grateful to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for extending the Middleville Museum’s ability to continue being a fantastic historical resource for the community and visitors, and fostering the opportunity for an expansion of the community programming and events that the Museum hosts. The dedication of the Museum volunteers and supporters is a testimony to the value of commitment,” noted Randy Hillier, MPP for Lanark-Frontenac-Kingston.
The work done with the OTF grant has created a more comfortable environment at the museum for visitors who come to see its extensive rural village and agricultural exhibits, and for genealogists who use the museum’s family and local history archives. The grant also helped make needed accessibility upgrades to the kitchen and washroom. As well, a generous neighbour has donated an acre of land which will be used to build a parking lot, create accessible parking and allow for room for a bus to pull up near the front entrance.
Thanks to this work, Middleville Museum will be able to offer a greater range of programs, demonstrations, classes, book launches and guest speakers’ series. A program that’s already underway is one that involves Grade 3 Pioneer Studies. For more information on this initiative and more, please visit:www.middlevillemuseum.org
Thank you to the Ontario Trillium Foundation for supporting the Museum’s efforts to be an inclusive, informative, creative outlet for the community. Please note, the Museum is closed until May 2021.
The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. OTF awarded $115 million to 644 projects last year to build healthy and vibrant communities in Ontario. www.otf.ca
President, Board of Directors
Middleville and District Museum
Curator Alice Borrowman Recognized for her Volunteer Service by the Ontario Museum Association (OMA) at their Annual Conference
“The Museum had a great series of events planned for the 2020 season – but of course, Covid-19 overturned everything. We are now planning for a foreshortened season (with many wonderful events postponed to 2021) and will announce this season’s revised program as soon as we know our opening date. Stay tuned!”
In the meantime we held our first "in-person" board meeting in over three months, yay!
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.