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
December 17th may seem like a strange time to celebrate National Maple Syrup Day, but it's a good reminder that this sweet treat can be a favourite ingredient all year round.
Long ago, the Anishinaabe used maple sugar to cure meat and store it for the long winter season when fresh food was not as readily available. Haudenosaunee tradition speaks of venison being cooked in sweet sap. Sugar cakes were stored in birch bark mokuks by First nations and later in wooden or cast iron molds by Settlers to provide a supply of natural sugar all year round. Today, maple syrup is a favourite ingredient in many seasonal treats including baked beans and Christmas Cake.
In celebrating Maple Syrup Day, try using some maple syrup to baste a meat dish or as a marinate for vegetables.
Here's a recipe for roasted vegetables marinated in maple syrup:
Maple Roasted Vegetables
4 carrots, peeled, cut in half lengthwise
4 beets, peeled, quartered
4 parsnips, peeled, cut in half lengthwise
1 fennel bulb, outer layer discarded, quartered
2 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
salt, freshly ground pepper to taste
Peel, cut and parboil the vegetables in salted water for 5 to 7 minutes, separately. When cooled, put all vegetables together in a bowl. Add maple syrup, oil, thyme and toss to evenly coat the vegetables. Add salt and pepper. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight to marinate.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lay the vegetables in a roasting pan. Roast for 50 - 60 minutes, until they are golden brown and crispy on the edges.
Serves 4 to 6.
Recipe adapted from: Sweet Ontario: Pure Maple Syrup
photo credit for mokuk: C. Smith
mokuk made of birch bark wooden sugar mold cast iron maple sugar molds
Horses: Well, would you have ever imagined a simple e-mail to the Museum would lead to an interview opportunity for us? Now that’s the kind of online content we’ve been hoping to see at the Middleville and District Museum!
Museum: So, let’s start with your names.
Horses: Well, I’m Bonhomme and this is my half brother, P’tit Guy. You can tell us apart because I have some white hair on my side.
Museum: And when were you born?
Horses: Well, I was born in January of 2018 so I’ll soon be four years of age. P’tit Guy, here, was born in May 2018. We’re old enough to work, but we still need a little more training just to learn the ropes, you know.
Museum: Now, I’m curious about where you were born?
Horses: On a farm in the Douro-Dummer area, just a few hours west up number 7 highway. Then we came here to this beautiful farm in the village of Middleville.
Museum: I believe you are Clydesdales so you must be very powerful.
Horses: Oh yes. We’re very strong. We are learning to do lots of jobs to help to out around the farm. It’s a busy place with lots of work to be done. We’re still young, in horse years, so we practice working together with our owner.
Museum: You seem to have quite an interest in history and the Museum. How did that start?
Horses: Well, we see visitors at the Museum every year when we’re out grazing in our pasture and we just got pretty curious what all the fuss was about. Besides, did you know that the Clydesdale breed originated in Lanarkshire, Scotland near the River Clyde? I guess it’s quite fitting that we came to live just about a mile from the Clyde River in Lanark Highlands. Clydesdales have a long history in this area. They’ve been part of the local Middleville Fair since the early 1900’s. You can learn interesting things like that at the museum.
Museum: Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with us today. You’ve really become local celebrities on the Museum’s facebook page. We hope you come by when we open in the spring. In the meantime, continue to visit us online at middlevillemuseum.org and keep those e-mails coming.
Thanks to the Ouellette Farm in Middleville for allowing the Middleville and District Museum to share pictures and details of their magnificent Clydesdales, Bonhomme and P’tit Guy.
Home made crafts were the order of the day before it became commonplace to purchase special tokens for family and friends. Many creative people carry on this tradition today. Early crafts were fashioned from whatever was available. Collecting natural materials was a common activity of women and children. Feathers, seeds and even hair were often materials of choice for creative design. Shells were used when they were accessible. The Middleville and District Museum has a collection of homemade crafts lovingly made for friends and family members. Practical items like socks and mittens kept family members warm and comfortable. Hooked rugs and quilts were projects undertaken by many. Wreaths made of seeds, shells and hair were often made to commemorate or celebrate a loved one. Some of these wreaths were preserved in shadow boxes and the Museum has examples that have survived from the late 1800's on display.
The sentiment of a handmade gift endures today as a testament of love for family and friends.
The very generous donation of additional land from the neighbouring property by Lionel Easton allowed a much needed expansion of the Middleville Museum grounds. A parking lot to accommodate the many visitors who attend Museum events and the creation of a circular driveway enables better access to the property for vans and buses. We look forward to welcoming busloads of visitors again someday.
Museum volunteers have been very busy with heavy machinery as well as shovels and trowels transforming the museum grounds into a park and picnic area. The longer term goal is to develop the space into a place visitors and community members can enjoy with picnic tables and flower beds. These features will add to the outdoor artifacts that are already a part of the yard. The old apple tree forms part of the picnic area providing a shady spot for hikers, cyclists and visitors to have a snack and rest before going on in their journey. The outdoor portable toilet will return again in spring for visitors to use when the Museum is closed during the week.
The Museum appreciates the help of Ken Lalonde, Kevin Philips, Ian Bodnoff, Rodney Stead, Bob McKay, Robert Groulx and the Lanark Highlands road crew (Middleville) notably, Jason McNichol who assisted with this project.
This journal is written, researched, and maintained by the volunteers of the Middleville Museum.