A sure sign of fall in Middleville is the sweet smell of apple cider freshly pressed in the Museum’s apple press. Families carrying baskets and bushels of apples take their turn to drop their apples in the large wooden vessel at the top of the old press. The handles on either sides turn around and around to move the cogs that grind and crush the apples before they drop into a wooden barrel below. An iron wheel is turned on a spiral pole lowering a wooden disc to press down on the pulp and squeeze the juice into the flat channel that empties into a container at the bottom. Nothing beats the taste of the freshly pressed juice and the fun of using the old ‘machine’ with manual labour as our ancestors would have done as part of their daily life.
Old time apple varieties are hard to find these days, but a few will recall the traditional MacIntosh, Wealthy, Snow, St. Laurence, Wolfe River and Transparent varieties that grew on the old homesteads in Lanark County. One local variety, the ‘Lanark Greening’, was grown by Robert Anderson who came to Canada as a young boy in the early 1800s. A life long passion for growing fruit trees led to his development of this variety of apple right here in Lanark County. He established an orchard in Fallbrook. Ontario where he grew fruit trees and he sold the Lanark Greening all around the area for decades.
Compiled with information from C. Smith’s article, ‘The Story of the Lanark Greening Apple’
On this International Day of Rural Women, it is fitting to focus on The Women’s Institute Exhibit at the Museum. The Exhibit holds the full and partial records for the local Institute branches of Hopetown, Middleville, Rosetta, Pine Grove and Union Hall. It also has the Tweedsmuir Histories that were compiled by members of The Women’s Institute of Rosetta and Hopetown to document the local history in their communities. These books hold many details of interest to researchers.
A little history of the Women’s Institute that grew from a rural grassroots movement to a worldwide organization:
On the evening of February 19, 1897, a group of a hundred women and one man, gathered in the Squire’s Hall in Stoney Creek, Ontario to hear a young woman speak. Her name was Adelaide Hoodless and she had an idea they thought might be worth listening to. She proposed that rural women should have an organization to study homemaking just as the farmers had to learn about agricultural information. The name of the organization was eventually decided on and ‘The Women’s Institute of Saltfleet’ was established. The woman, Adelaide Hunter Hoodless, was a wife and mother who believed early training of young girls in Domestic Science was crucial to the well being of society. The strength of her conviction was most likely borne of her own personal tragedy in the loss of a child. When she learned that her youngest son died as a result of drinking unpasteurized milk and that this was a common occurrence, she made it her life’s work to educate young mothers in this and other important domestic knowledge. She maintained that rural women should have a place to “discuss their problems and work together to improve their standards of homemaking and citizenship”. (Ontario Women’s Institute Story, FWIO) The Women’s Institute eventually spread to all the provinces of Canada and to affiliates in countries around the world.
If you want to know what was accomplished by The Women’s Institute through history, look to the records of local communities and you will inevitably find notations of many feats accomplished by this organization. The Museum recently acquired a streetlight from the early 1900s originally purchased with funds raised by the local branch of the Women’s Institute. Countless projects were sponsored and funded by the rural women who joined forces and made things happen to better their communities. They got things done. So in celebrating the International Day of Rural Women, think of the power of the grassroots movement started by Adelaide Hoodless and her legacy of service carried on by women all over the world today.
While the Middleville Museum has lots of life size artifacts to enjoy, you might be surprised that its collection includes miniature replicas of fences, farm machinery, logging tools, sleighs, wagons, an ox cart, a cabin, sugar shacks and even a complete Church.
A display of ten types of traditional fences by Alex Bowes demonstrates that there is more to fence design than meets the eye. Many master fence builders have signature designs that make their fences stand out from the rest.
Childhood memories are depicted in the miniature wagons and sleighs carefully carved by Arthur Kirkham of Bathurst Township in the late 1990’s.
The work by Bruce White of Lanark is displayed in the Agricultural and Shanty Exhibits. A hay wagon carrying actual hay and a plow ready for the furrow are of interest to visitors. Loads of logs on sleighs and a miniature log truck show how the lumber business evolved. A train with two cars loaded with logs is also on display.
The past year has seen the arrival of two new additions to the Museum’s collection of miniatures. A detailed exact replica of the St. Declan’s Roman Catholic Church at Brightside crafted by Raymond Cole in the 1990’s was donated by his family. Visitors can peer in through the front door and see the pews, altar and paintings that grace the walls. It even has a tiny bell in the bell tower.
An extensive collection of miniature replica artifacts was donated by the family of Ken Bowes. Ken (1918 – 2005) was born in nearby Galbraith and lived his adult life in the community of Middleville. After years of working in the bush and hauling logs with his horses, Ken decided to put his skill for shaping wood with an axe to good use. He was inspired when he saw some miniatures and decided to give it try. He crafted a collection of his own in the 1970’s. His attention to the finest detail meant hand stitching and finding creative solutions for how to replicate real item in tiny versions.
Visitors can learn about how life used to be while enjoying the exquisite details in these amazing works of art at the Middleville and District Museum.
The Museum has committed to updating its Indigenous Exhibit and providing space for the stories of local Indigenous people for visitors to read. We have added information about the Baye and Whiteduck families who are familiar to many visitors from the local area. Baskets, boats, tools and hunting implements are among the items made by these two families and featured in the Exhibit. General information about the Anishinaabe is included for visitors to learn more about their history in this area. A place for visitors to contribute information to build our knowledge is part of the Exhibit. Future plans include further development of the educational aspect of the Exhibit.
Joe Baye and Joe Whiteduck were both well known in their communities. Joe Baye, of Taylor Lake, was a skilled builder as well as hunter and trapper. He supplied his neighbours with many handcrafted items that they preserved and donated to the Museum’s collection. Joe Whiteduck’s family, of Joe’s Lake, were skilled basket makers and sold many beautiful baskets to people in the area. The Museum has examples of these intricately detailed artifacts.
Visitors enjoy learning more about these families and viewing the artistry of the artifacts on display.
Wooden spiles, troughs and buckets are highlighted in the Middleville and District Museum’s Maple Exhibit. Visitors learn about First Nations sugar making with tales of sumac spiles and birch bark muhkuks. Sugar molds first made of wood and later of iron and tin, were used to harden the sugar for storage. Maple sugar was considered more of a necessity than a treat in early settler days. Refined sugar was expensive and supplies often ran low. Families relied on their store of maple sugar they could produce each spring to sustain them through the many seasons of the year, especially at the end of a long hard winter. The Museum has artifacts from the early days through to the ‘modern’ sap buckets, pails, gathering tanks and finishing pans. Visitors are intrigued by the evolution of spiles from wooden to metal with many designs adapted through the years.
With the leaves turning their brilliant colours, it’s a great time to take a drive to the Middleville and District Museum in the heart of Lanark County to learn about sugar making in the 1800 and 1900s. Many pictures and artifacts tell the story of this tradition in days gone by. Be sure to pick up a recipe from the display when you visit.
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.
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.