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.
“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 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