Trip Down Memory Lane

The husbands grew up in Paris. The wives love the town for its charm, its pace of life and the secrets it has revealed about the men they married.

Each year five families, now widely scattered, return to Paris for a reunion. One of their mandatory stops is the Paris Museum & Historical Society for a trip down memory lane. The men pore over photos and information about their family homes; the landmarks of their youth; long-lost schoolmates and local history. The women tour the exhibits, visit the gift shop and eventually drift back to the research room to join their husbands.

This year, they kept four volunteers — Dale Robb, Chris Galloway, Sharon Murphy and Carol Goar — busy when they dropped in on Thursday, Sept. 20 and stayed for an hour and a half.

left to right: Linda Geary, Carolyn Smiley, Gordon Smiley, John Fielding, Diane Fielding, Art Binch, Hazel Binch, Jeremy Hamilton-Wright, Barb Hamilton-Wright

This year’s trip had special significance. John Fielding, a retired history professor, brought along his just-published book, Paris Daze. Like his previous six textbooks, it was designed to make history engaging. But unlike the others, it was highly personal. His subtitle made that clear: Adventures and Misadventures Growing Up in the Prettiest Town in Canada. In addition, his wife Dianne painted the water colours that adorn the front and back covers.

John grew up on Banfield Street, graduated from Paris District High School and went on to University of Western Ontario where he earned an honours degree in history. For the next 37 years, he taught history, first at the secondary school level, then at university. Now he is a happily retired grandfather.

John Fielding with his new book Paris Daze

The Fieldings drove from Kingston for the reunion. Art and Hazel Binch came from Ottawa; Jeremy and Barb Hamilton-Wright from Northville, Michigan; and Gordon and Carolyn Smiley from London, Ont.

As they reluctantly departed — leaving eight copies of Paris Daze to sell in the gift shop — they promised to return next year, with full-sized prints of Dianne Fielding’s water colours of Paris.

Written by Carol Goar with photos by Sharon Murphy

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