The first telephones in Lanark Township were installed in William Croft’s store in Middleville and James Herron’s house in Herron’s Mills in 1897. Eleven years later, in 1908, the Hopetown Telephone Company was established and a phone was installed in the home of A.J. McDougall. The following year, there was an expansion with more telephones being installed in the area. Lines were extended to Brightside and McNichol’s Mill. Next, a connection was made from Lanark to Pinegrove, Ferguson’s Falls and Prestonvale. In 1915-16, Joe’s Lake, Clyde Forks and White were connected. An interesting notice was published in 1921, informing telephone customers that service would not be available after 8 pm in the evenings during the winter months beginning December 1st. Imagine being disconnected from friends and neighbours every night for months. We would surely find this most inconvenient in our lives of high connectivity these days. In 1971, ownership of telephone service to the local areas was transferred to Bell. At this time, the service was dial. The Middleville and District Museum has a telephone from the home of Lawrence and Agnes Gibson of Hopetown. Lawrence worked as a linesman for the Hopetown Telephone Company from 1932 to 1954 and the Museum displays his pole climbing gear including a belt and spurs. Museum visitors can view a telephone switchboard and several models of telephones developed through the decades.
John Affleck (1847-1934) was born in Lanark Township in the community of Middleville. As a young man, he apprenticed the shoemaking trade with William Guthrie of Middleville. Shoemakers were actually known as cordwainers and those who repaired shoes were called cobblers. In small communities, the ‘Village Cobbler’ would usually do both. The Middleville and District Museum has a display of John Affleck’s shoemaking tools. The Exhibit includes an awl, hammer, shoe lasts, shoe trees, button hooks, eyelets, wooden pegs, patterns, leather cutter and many other items. John’s shoemaking bench has a seat on one end and a workspace on the other, A box with multiple sections holds the small, intricate pegs and fasteners that the shoemaker needed close at hand. Sewing machines robust enough to stitch leather were invented in 1846. The Museum has one of these machines on display in the Cobbler Exhibit. These machines made the process of shoemaking and repair much quicker. A person in need of a pair of shoes would visit the Cobbler’s shop to be measured. The shoemaker would work to create the footwear, piece by piece, and then the customer would return to pick up their purchase. The Cobbler was often paid with products rather than cash. In early settlement many items would be offered up as payment. Like in many examples of early commerce, trading goods and services was common. Cobbler John’s ledger containing many local names is on display in the Exhibit. Visitors can search for familiar family names in a transcript of the pages.
A Scottish master carpenter emigrated to Canada as a young man in 1832. He set up shop in the vicinity of Gore Street, in Perth, Ontario and operated a large furniture manufacturing company there. This man, David Hogg, was renowned for his craftsmanship and design. The Middleville and District Museum has David Hogg’s Day Book of designs on display in its Carpentry Exhibit. The sketches show the measurement details and structure of furniture that would be made by Mr. Hogg for his customers. William Hogg, likely a brother of David, moved from Perth to the small community of Galbraith in the Township of Lanark during the mid 1851 and built a cabinet making shop on his farm. Here, he crafted chairs, tables, cupboards, beds, blanket chests and many other items. He supplied furniture to the local area. The Middleville and District Museum has an exhibit built around the work bench that William used until his death in 1871. William’s son, John, continued the family trade until about 1906. Many tools, their chair patterns and some furniture are part of the exhibit. Many families in the area may still have a treasured piece of furniture with the Hogg label on it. Museum visitors interested in fine craftsmanship can enjoy the extensive displays of planes, tools and many other related artifacts in the Carpentry and Hogg Family Exhibits.
Everybody in a small community would know the blacksmith and he would know his customers very well. A blacksmith's work day could be as long as 16 or 17 hours meeting the needs of the community. Some days would see a line up of horses waiting to have shoes reset or replaced. A blacksmith might drive over 100 pounds of nails in horseshoes per month. In the early 1900"s the price for a new shoe was 25 cents. Two horseshoes could be removed and replaced for 25 cents and resetting a shoe could cost 15 cents. In the winter months, the blacksmith would put metal studs called 'corks' on horseshoes to grip the ice. A blacksmith also had to be ready to save the day if a local farmer's machinery broke down in the middle of a job. The 'smithy' as they were called, would repair ploughs, harrows, sleighs, buggies, threshing mills and anything else his customers needed. He also had a supply of tools on hand in his shop. Every day items like hinges, keys, locks, hooks, blades, buggy jacks, axes and hoes were on offer for customers. The blacksmith would have tire rim setters and a rim fitting stone to keep drivers on the road. The Middleville and District Museum's Blacksmith Exhibit includes a coal fired forge, tongs, poker, anvil, steel boring machine, heat gauge and butteris and many other items for visitors to enjoy.
The death of a king on February 6th, 1952 brought a young princess to the British throne. The world watched as a young woman returned to her home to assume the weight of her family's legacy. Elizabeth, as young as she was, had been well prepared to lead and relied on the strength of her new husband, Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. Queen Elizabeth II has reigned over the United Kingdom and Commonwealth for 70 years making 2022 the year of her Platinum Jubilee. The Middleville and District Museum has commemorative albums and scrapbooks that chronicle the life of Queen Elizabeth II, her family and their history. The "Illustrated London News: Coronation Issue 1953", provides a detailed account of Her Majesty's life and the traditions of coronations through generations of her regal lineage. A scrapbook filled with newspaper accounts of her coronation includes pictures of the event and the elements used for centuries in royal tradition. These books and royal memorabilia will be on display for visitors to enjoy in the upcoming Museum season as the Platinum Jubilee is celebrated around the world. Many people have memories of commemorative items depicting royalty at a grandparents home. Royal images appeared on plates, trays, tins, figurines and many other items. The Museum's collection includes postcards, bottle stoppers, neck tie clips, and medallions. .
For our ancestors, keeping food preserved in a safe way meant spending long, cold days in potentially dangerous situations to harvest ice off the local waterways. Families would wait until the ice was a good depth, usually in late January, and then hitch a horse to an ice plough. The plough had large cutting blades with a series of teeth on the bottom. There were two handles on the back to steer the plough. The plough would be steered in a straight line to score the ice surface. Several trips back and forth would be made to cut a deeper trough. The next step would be to chip the ice with a long handled tool called a spud. The spud would be raised up and then brought down with force to break the ice blocks apart. Saws were also used to cut through the ice. Ice tongs were used to pull the large ice cubes out of the water. Great care had to be taken to maintain the integrity of the surrounding ice so the plough, horse or people would not end up in the icy water and have to be rescued very quickly before hypothermia would set in. Harvested ice was hauled by horses pulling sleigh loads to an ice house. It was stored for many months by covering it in straw or sawdust. Ice could be kept frozen throughout the summer months. A trip to the ice house was a well known way to cool off in the heat of summer before the luxury of air conditioning came along. The Middleville and District Museum has an ice plough and spud donated by Kelvin Rintoul. The plough was used in the 1940's by Kelvin's uncle, Charlie Rintoul in Carleton Place. Charlie established an ice harvesting business on the Mississippi River. So when we open the refrigerator door to grab our favourite snack or add some ice cubes to cool a beverage, we can be thankful we didn't have to spend a chilly day on the river in late January.
In bygone years, winter weather limited a family's ability to make a living on the homestead so many farmers took to the bush to earn money to support their families. Winter logging camps provided work for those able to wield an axe. The men would stay in the camps over the winter months. One young man wrote of leaving for Penman's shanty on the 8th line of Lanark Township at the end of November 1905 and staying there until the first week of April. He earned $8 a month. Another man reported making $100 for 5 months of work in 1939. The Middleville and District Museum has many great examples of tools used in the logging shanties. The early axes used by settlers were not very efficient so these were soon replaced with heavier, more robust models. Cant hooks were used to grab and roll the logs into place and a tool called a pickeroon had a sharp pic shaped end to catch on the end of a log and lift it up. The shanty exhibit at the Middleville Museum features crosscut saws, a selection of axes, an adze, cant hooks, pickeroons, log lifter tongs, a pike pole, buck saw, saw set, skidding tongs, rip saw, logger's boots with spikes and a river driving camp stove. The Museum also provides visitors with records and several books documenting the history of local logging.
Roads were a challenge to navigate when deep snow piled up during winter months in rural settlement communities. Sleigh runners were designed to glide easily over packed snow trails, but a heavy snowfall could make it too difficult for horses to wade through while pulling the sleigh. As communities grew, wooden snowploughs were built and several sturdy teams of horses were used to pull and push them to clear the roadways. The early snowploughs were usually pulled by two teams with a third team hitched to a push pole on the back of the plough. It would have been a long and labourious job with the horses needing to be rested or replaced after working for hours to break through the deep snow. As many as five teams would be used to pull the snowploughs after a really large snowfall. Lanark Township had four horse-drawn snow ploughs in use in the mid 40's to mid 50's. The Middleville and District Museum has a snowplough restored by Tony Walsh of Watson's Corners, similar to the one pictured here, as part of its outdoor display. Just another reason to appreciate the enormous role horses played in early rural communities.
The Middleville and District Museum offers visitors a glimpse into the lives of children in years gone by through its collection of toys. The Museum has an assortment of dolls from the late 1800's to the mid 1900's made from a variety of materials. The heads were ususlly ceramic. The bodies were often fashioned out of cloth and sometimes stuffed with straw. A few examples of dolls with bodies carved from wood are on display. Girls would practice their sewing skills by making additional clothing for their dolls. Sets of tiny dishes were part of play for decades. Carved toys included horses and sleighs. Rocking horses were always popular with youngsters. As trains and cars came onto the scene, replicas of these vehicles were in demand as toys. The Museum's collection includes a xylophone, a miniature iron, a hand saw and a set of building blocks.
The Scottish immigrants who settled in the wilderness of Canada did not celebrate Christmas as many of their descendents do now. Christmas celebrations had been prohibited in Scotland for a long time. The Scots celebrated the coming of the new year with many traditions from their homeland. Children in Scotland would go door to door collecting oatcakes as a treat. The distance and isolation of the new land called for a few changes to this tradition. Settlers would prepare for the transition to the new year by cleaning their cabins from top to bottom. They would bake using ingredients they had been saving for this special occasion. Black Bun was a favourite festive cake with raisins and spices encased in pastry made by the familes fortunate enough to have access to these special ingredients. The focus of the celebration was gathering with family and neighbours to share spiced ale and Black Bun. Children might receive a carved or sewn gift. Games would be played for entertainment. Just before midnight, the back door would be opened and ashes from the hearth would be swept outside to rid the house of the old year. The front door would be opened to welcome the new year into the house. This was a great challenge for the many settlers who had only one door in their primitive cabins.
A 'first footer' was believed to be essential to bring good luck to the house and family for the year ahead. If a dark haired man was the first to cross the threshold of the home just after the stroke of midnight it was a sign of good fortune to come. Families would wait in anticipation for a knock at the door. The first footer, often a family member or neighbour, would come into the home bearing a gift. The gifts would represent good wishes. Common items were: coal for warmth throughout the year, a silver coin for prosperity, salt for good health, an evergreen bough to signal a long life, shortbread or Black Bun for plentiful food or whiskey for good cheer. The first footer would be welcomed into the home and treated to good cheer.
coal, salt, shortbread, silver coins, whiskey, evergreen bough
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.