High Drama on the Voyage to Paris

For four days the crew and passengers of the Apollo clung to their listing vessel. Caught in a fierce storm off the coast of Newfoundland, the barque hung at a crazy angle in the frigid water, all four masts sheared off by the high wind. Crewmen and passengers worked the pumps in two-hour shifts to keep the ship afloat.

One of those passengers was George Low Scott, a druggist from Dundee Scotland making his way to North America to build a new life. Scott lived to tell the tale and establish a successful pharmacy — carrying everything from medications to Wedgewood china — on Grand River Street North in Paris.

George Low Scott 1828-1892

“It’s a story that has it all — drama, terror, life and death,” said Bob Hasler, a lifetime member of the Paris Museum and Historical Society, explaining why he chose The Wreck of the Apollo for his contribution to a local history roadshow organized by the County of Brant Public Library. The first round of storytelling takes places at the Paris branch of the library on Sept. 26 at 7pm.

It would be an understatement to say Bob is well-prepared. Three weeks before the event, he had written and re-written his lecture several times, edited it with help from his wife Pat and timed it to precisely nine-and-at-half minutes. (All 6 of the evening’s speakers have a 10-minute limit.)

One of the themes Bob hopes to emphasize is that The Wreck of the Apollo barely scratches the surface of the Scott family history. So determined was George to emigrate that he set sail a year later from Liverpool. This time, he landed successfully in New York City, made his way north to Dundas in April of 1848 and opened his drug store in Paris in 1850, the year the village was incorporated.

All these details — and many more — are part of a 13-box collection of letters, artifacts and memorabilia donated to PMHS this year by 2 of the patriarch’s descendants, Aleda Scott of Hamilton and her brother James.

Bob Hasler with some items from the Scott family donation

Bob has already spent 300 hours poring over the collection, organizing the contents chronologically, separating business and family correspondence, tracking George Low’s antecedents in Scotland and his descendants throughout Canada and the United States. The papers are in almost pristine shape, he says, thanks to the careful preservation of several generations of heirs.

“I know more about the Scott family than I know about my own family history,” he says, reflecting the all-consuming passion of a dedicated researcher.

Bob is eager to share his knowledge of “a middle-class Canadian family with a strong business ethic and strong faith.”

All he can do in a nine-and-a-half-minute “lightning lecture” is whet listeners’ appetites and urge them to come to the Paris Museum to learn more about the Scott Saga.

by Carol Goar

“Lighting Lectures” Coming to Paris

This fall, the Paris Museum and Historical Society will help kick off a local history road show, designed to bring together organizations across Brant County to tell local stories and highlight their collections.

Beginning Sept. 26, six historical organizations will participate in an evening of 10-minute “lightning lectures” at the Paris branch of the Brant Public Library. The museum’s contribution, provided by lifetime member and tireless researcher Bob Hasler, is entitled “The Wreck of the Apollo: An Immigration Adventure”.

A second set of lightning lectures will be held Oct. 30 at the Burford Township Museum in Harley. The final installment of the autumn series will take place Nov. 28 at the South Dumfries Museum in St. George. The Paris Museum will take part at all three venues.

“The local history road show is a way of raising the profile of local history within the community at large and allows groups the opportunity to talk about all the interesting things they encounter,” said Gary Jermy, Community Engagement Librarian for the County of Brant Public Library. “Being able to hear talks from six different local history organizations should make for a fun and interesting evening.”

The lectures, which start at 7pm, are free, but registration is required. To sign up, go to:

This countywide series will take the place of the Paris Museum’s individual lectures. The board of PMHS liked the idea of blending the voices of our researchers with those of our local counterparts.

Along with Bob Hasler’s talk, one of the gems from a 13-box donation by the family of nineteenth century Paris chemist George Low Scott, participants in the Sept. 26 set of lectures will hear about the tools metermen used a century ago in the Grand Valley, the history of Brantwood Farms, the Harley General Store, and the life of the remarkable Dr. O, “Peter Martin” Oronhyatekha.

“I wanted something with enough substance that people would find it worthwhile to attend,” Jermy explained.

Please mark your calendar and head to the Paris Branch of the Brant Public Library at 12 William St, in Paris on Sept. 26 at 7pm.

By Carol Goar

Next: A sneak peek of Bob Hasler’s talk

Scott family donation

Did you know that a Paris resident living here in the 1890’s could buy a season ticket to a local park?

That’s only one small tidbit of information that has come to light about life in Paris, as a result of a wonderful donation recently gifted to PMHS by Aleda O’Connor of Hamilton and her husband. Ms. O’Connor is a descendant of George Low Scott, a chemist who along with his family made Paris his home in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

The thousands of items that make up the donation have much to teach us, not just about the Scott family, but also about life in our little town as it was in the 1800’s.

We now know that Scott was a member of a handful of local organizations like the Paris Hockey Club and the Paris Bicycle Club. No doubt, he also paid seasonal fees so that he and his family could enjoy a Sunday afternoon promenade in Riverview Park (long gone now but once located on Grand River Street North). We know these things because the recent donation from O’Connor contains some never seen before, hand signed membership cards issued to Scott. They are in near perfect condition and will be a wonderful component to a future exhibit of the Scott family collection planned for the museum.

George Scott operated a business here from 1851 to 1892. At one point in time, Scott’s chemist shop was located downtown where Café Europa now sits. Thanks to a previous donation by the Scott family, PMHS already had the original mortar and pestle shaped metal sign that hung outside the shop, as well as the original invoice for said sign. The sign, thankfully, survived the great Paris fire of September 12th, 1900. For a time, after his father died, George’s son Paul took over the business. Eventually, however he gave up the family business and left Paris for the big city (Toronto) to train as a doctor. Some memorabilia from his life also graces our collection thanks to the foresight and generosity of his descendants.

So this latest donation by the Scott family adds immeasurably to the existing family collection already housed here at PMHS. It is very rewarding to us when we are able to expand our knowledge of the pioneers of Paris by adding to specific existing collections. It allows us to understand more deeply the lives of the people who make up the fabric of our history.

This recent windfall is providing a mountain of work for PMHS Life Member Bob Hasler, who has undertaken the momentous task of cataloguing all of the items in the 13-box donation. “This is the ultimate collection that I’ve worked on”, said Bob. And the biggest one he’s ever done. But he’s undaunted by its size and says that he was thrilled to take on the job. Bob is now happily working away photographing and organizing box after box of artefacts. He’s already spent hundreds of hours combing through everything and estimates that it will take about six to eight months to completely process the whole donation. He’s also keeping in touch with Aleda as he works, so that she can add context to what Bob is discovering as he sifts through her history.

Bob Hasler with some items from the Scott family donation

The recent donation consists of dinnerware, documents, photographs and family letters from as far back as 1799. Four or five of the boxes contain linens, articles of clothing and other textiles. There are also some other rare pieces of local history like invoices relating to Scott’s business and some early telegraph messages. Things like company bills, business agreements and other paperwork can provide us with valuable information about what life was like for a business owner in early Paris.

As Bob works through the boxes item by item, he’s also stitching together the history of the Scott family. Their story begins in Scotland. “I know for certain that he (George) left November 11th, 1847, from Liverpool, England because we have letters from an agent stating terms of travel”, Bob says. George sailed on a packet ship called “Sheridan” and we know that by December 25th of that same year he had arrived at his destination, New York City, because he wrote to his mother to say that he had landed safely. The Scotsman’s journey next took him to Quebec City, then to Dundas, Ontario and finally to Paris.

George’s letter home is one of over 2,000 missives saved by the family over decades. The letters are helping Bob define George’s large network of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. Many of the communications are letters between George and his intended Jessie. From 1859 to 1860 alone they wrote about 100 letters to each other.

How lucky we are at PMHS that families like the Scotts and their descendants take pains to save and preserve such valuable memorabilia. And we are so grateful that they have entrusted us with their precious family heirlooms so that we can bring their past into the present for our community.

– Cate Breaugh

Ayr Farmers Mutual Celebrating 125 Years

On April 26th dozens of representatives of local volunteer organizations were feted at the headquarters of Ayr Farmers Mutual Insurance Company as AFM marks its 125th year in business. Nathan Etherington and Ursula O’Brien were on hand to represent the Paris Museum and Historical Society which received a generous donation from AFM.

Congratulations and a sincere thank you to AFM. Here’s to the next 125 years!

(left to right) AFM President & CEO Jeff Whiting, PMHS directors Nathan Etherington and Ursula O’Brien, AFM Vice-Chair Cathy Formica

Avro Arrow spawned a Canadian legend

Sleek, technogically advanced and faster than any jet of its time, the Avro Arrow is the most famous aircraft in Canadian history. To this day, it fuels engineers’ dreams and underpins one of Canada’s most enduring legends.

Eric Gibson, a designer of aircraft engines and dedicated volunteer at the Paris Museum and Historical Society, would like to have been part of the team of highly skilled engineers who produced the storied aircraft. Alas, he emigrated to Canada too late. When the British engineer arrived in Montreal in 1964, the Arrow was but a poignant memory.

He was recruited by aerospace manufacturer Pratt and Whitney. As he was introduced to his new colleagues, one after the other told him proudly: “I worked on the Avro Arrow project.”

Intrigued, Gibson learned everything he could about the Canadian supersonic interceptor jet.

Today he is so knowledgeable that he gives lectures on the subject, supplemented by a slide show and brought to life by anecdotes from people touched by the project. He delivered his talk at the Paris Museum on March 13, 2018 — the 60th anniversary of the Arrow’s first flight.

“It was a very adventurous project,” he said. “We’ll never know what might have been.”

His predominantly male audience of 20 sat spellbound as he told the story of the Avro Arrow, from its promising beginning in the mid 1950s to its heartbreaking end in 1959.

The CF-105, better known as the Avro Arrow, was conceived in the Cold War. Russia was working on a supersonic bomber. The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) turned to Avro Canada, a Malton-based aircraft manufacturer with a good track record, to design the world’s most advanced military interceptor.

The company assigned a crack team of designers and engineers to the task. It decided to create the mainframe and buy the engine and weapons system off the shelf to keep the project affordable.

The Arrow team tried things that had never been done before; computer-aided design (when computers were in their infancy), extensive use of lightweight titanium and composites, newly-discovered aerodynamic principles.

Skipping the prototype stage entirely, Avro rolled out the first Arrow on Oct. 4, 1957. In an ominous foreshadow of what was to come, the unveiling of the Canada’s most advanced military jet was overshadowed by the launch of Russia’s Sputnik missile.

“The Arrow was designed to chase supersonic bombers,” Gibson explained. “With missiles, it didn’t have a mission.”

Moreover, the political atmosphere had become hostile. That year, John Diefenbaker, a Conservative prairie lawyer promising improved social programs, won the general election, ending 22 years of Liberal rule. “Diefenbaker was not admired by people in the aircraft industry,” Gibson observed wryly.

The third strike against the Arrow was its cost. By the time the mainframe was built, the engine of choice, made by Rolls Royce had been discontinued. The design team hastily substituted Pratt and Whitney engines in its test models. Then there were problems with the landing gear, requiring costly repairs. Each adjustment drove up the price tag.

The Arrow performed well on its first flight. But its fate was already sealed. “It was getting frightfully expensive,” Gibson admitted. “And it is a bit pointless keeping an aircraft when you don’t have a mission for it.”

On Feb. 20, 1959 — known as “Black Friday” in the aircraft industry — the axe fell. Diefenbaker rose in the House of Commons and announced the termination of the Avro Arrow project.

All five test models and the 34 aircraft in production were to be destroyed; parts and equipment were to be scrapped; plans, drawings and technical specifications were to be demolished.

More than 14,500 highly-skilled workers at Avro lost their livelihoods that day. A further 10,000 positions were cut by Avro’s suppliers. “People were told to pack their things and leave,” Gibson recounted. “They didn’t believe they were out of a job.”

The top engineers dispersed, some to aircraft makers in the U.S., some to Pratt and Whitney, some to other industries.

For years, rumours circulated that someone flew one of the Arrows to safety. In 1997, June Callwood, a respected Canadian journalist and pilot herself, wrote in Maclean’s magazine that she heard the distinctive sound of an Arrow flying over Toronto the day after Diefenbaker announced that the jets were to be destroyed. In 1968, Air Marshall Wilfred Curtis, the First World War flying ace who headed the Arrow program, refused to answer when a Toronto Star reporter asked whether one of the Arrows was still intact. To this day, some “Arrowheads” believe it is out there waiting to be found.

Gibson is dubious, but he can say with assurance that “there are a lot of parts in people’s basements.”

The Arrow lives on in legend; kept alive by the families of the workers who thought they were making history; by aviation buffs savouring Canada’s moment of aeronautical leadership; and by ordinary Canadians captivated by the tale of a high-flying aircraft, grounded before it could soar.

Carol Goar


Spring cleaning came early for Paris Museum Volunteers this year. A group of volunteers spent an entire day clearing out and reorganizing the museum’s display storage area. All the items needed to be removed from the old storage shelves and placed temporarily in the arena lobby before new shelving could be installed. The volunteers then relocated the items on the new shelving in categories and well-labelled boxes. A great job was done by all!

– Ursula O’Brien

Volunteer Training

The first of three volunteer training workshops took place at the Museum on Saturday, February 10th and was very well attended. We welcomed experienced volunteers who came for a refresher, along with three brand new volunteers eager to get their feet wet.

Volunteers were taken on a tour of the museum including the exhibit area, research and storage rooms. Detailed information was presented about the museum shop and reception process. The next workshop, March 10th will begin with a review of material presented at the first workshop and include more detailed information on the accession and catalogue process. April 14th will also start with a review and then we will focus on researching.

Thanks to all who helped with the refreshments and photocopying. See you next month!

For more information about volunteering with PMHS, please contact us at info@theparismuseum.com

Ursula O’Brien

Annual General Meeting

Sunday February 25, 2018
2:00 PM — 4:00 PM

Each year, members of the Paris Museum & Historical Society are encouraged to attend our Annual General Meeting. It’s a perfect opportunity to catch up with what’s going on at the Paris Museum. It’s also a great time to give us your feedback about the past year and let us know what you would like to see happen in the coming year. All members in good standing have a vote, and memberships can be renewed at or before the AGM.

Join us as we prepare for an exciting 2018 together!

The Paris Museum & Historical Society
Syl Apps Community Centre,
51 William Street
Paris, Ontario.
(Enter directly from the parking lot)