An eager group of 12 walkers came out for the Paris Museum’s final regular walking tour of the year on Sept. 29. The brisk autumn air seemed to increase their enthusiasm.
This resurgence of interest was welcomed by tour leader Wayne Wilkinson and assistant Marie Williamson after a disappointing summer. Low turnout forced the cancellation of Wayne’s August walking tour. A June nature hike, led by Garth Pottruff, was cancelled because of inclement weather.
This time, the participants — from Toronto, Brantford and Paris — had lots of questions and a few contributions of their own. When Wayne reached 16 Broadway Street West, the site of one of the town’s finest cobblestone homes, he admitted he’d always been stumped by the symbols above the door. A young woman on the tour was able to unlock the mystery. Recognizing the insignia, she suggested they represented “health” and “prosperity”.
For Wayne and Marie personally, the tour was a tribute to the late Doug Hazlewood; Wayne’s frequent tour assistant. They considered cancelling the Saturday tour out of respect for their friend and fellow volunteer, but decided to go ahead, convinced that is what Doug would have would have wanted.
As mourners paid their respects to Doug at the William Kipp Funeral Home, Wayne remembered his walking tour buddy in a happier place.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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!