Bawcutt Centre one step closer

The Paris Old Town Hall — now known as The Bawcutt Centre — has become a Designated Heritage Property. The plaque was unveiled during a ceremony on November 20th, 2017. The event was attended by the Centre’s namesake, former Paris mayor Jack Bawcutt.

– Rick O’Brien

Canada embraced Ku Klux Klan in early 20th century

The spirit of the Ku Klux Klan is alive today in Canada, professor Jim Penton told a hushed audience at the Paris Museum. “It shows up in the anti-refugee, anti-indigenous, anti-immigrant attitudes we see today.”

The purpose of Penton’s lecture was two-fold; first to disprove the myth that Canada is — or ever was — immune to racial hatred; and second to demonstrate that, even without hooded gowns and burning crosses, white supremacism is deeply rooted in Canada.

“Weren’t we a lot better?” Penton asked rhetorically, referring to the early 20th century. “Absolutely not!”

He cited three ugly examples of the Klan’s racist activities in Canada:

In Oakville in 1930, a mixed-race couple was forcibly separated by a troop of hooded Klansmen from Hamilton, their house set aflame. When the police chief arrived, the leaders took off their hoods. Recognizing several of them, he assured the group no arrests would be made, no charges laid.

In Barrie, a Catholic church was dynamited in 1926, allegedly at the secret hand of the KKK.

In London, a South Carolina Klansman fleeing U.S. police in 1872 was hailed as a local hero. When American detectives seized him, took him across the border and charged him with the murder of a black man, an outcry went up among Canadians. Anxious to avoid an international showdown, U.S. marshals dispatched him back to Ontario, where he was warmly welcomed and spent his life.

Two characteristics made Canada’s white supremacist movement different from its American counterpart, Penton explained. It was nurtured by many mainstream institutions — the Presbyterian Church, the Salvation Army and the Orange Lodge Order. Its targets were not just black — it propagated hatred toward Roman Catholics, Jews, “Indians” and people of mixed race. Its goal was to keep Canada British, Protestant and white.

Although Penton has no personal knowledge of KKK activity in Paris, he told the audience “I have no doubt the Klan was here.” He pointed to rumours of cross burnings and reports of a by-law forbidding black people from staying in Paris overnight.

In fact, local historians have found evidence that the Ku Klux Klan held an organizing meeting in Paris on April 27, 1927. It circulated a manifesto, obtained by the (Paris) Star-Transcript, listing these objectives:

  • To honour the glorious Union Jack;
  • To serve the Protestant Church;
  • And to advocate white supremacy and racial purity.

At the time, there were no blacks in town. The 2 Jewish families were well-respected. And there was little antipathy between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Enthusiasm for the movement quickly fizzled.

Penton, now 85 and retired from the University of Lethbridge, felt the brush of the KKK personally. He grew up in small-town Saskatchewan. His family belonged to a small sect of Jehovah’s Witnesses. He has Metis ancestry, making him vulnerable on two counts. He remembers a neighbour’s house being burnt to the ground.

At 16 years of age, his parents sent him to Arizona, ostensibly because of ill health. He went to high school in Tucson, earned his bachelor’s degree at the University of Arizona and acquired his master’s degree and doctorate at the University of Iowa.

“I’ve seen so much hatred in my life that I feel very strongly about human freedom,” he said in an interview. “We could all be a little more compassionate.”

Carol Goar

“We will remember them”

Marie Williamson and Carol Goar shared the honour of laying a wreath on behalf of the Paris Museum and Historical Society on the cenotaph this year.

Remembrance Day dawned sunny but bitterly cold (minus 2 degrees.) Despite the weather, close to 1,000 people gathered for the ceremony, spilling out into Grand River Street North and Mechanic Street.

The wreath-laying was part of the lead-up to the 2 minutes of silence. Marie and Carol, who arrived early, placed the PMHS wreath on the cenotaph shortly after 10 am. They were escorted by a veteran, who provided directions, saluted their wreath smartly and accompanied them back.

By 11 am when bugler Geoff Adeney sounded the last post, the cenotaph was covered with dozens of identical wreaths — from relatives and comrades of deceased veterans, service clubs, churches, retirement homes, Girl Guides, Scouts, local firefighters and police, all three levels of government and the Royal Canadian Legion.

The only sound during the 2-minute pause was the mournful bark of a cold dog; a fitting remembrance of the misery in which 19,252 Canadians died at Vimy Ridge and Passenchdale 100 years earlier.

The silence was broken by Reverend Canon Mario Hryniewicz, reading the familiar words: “They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old. Age shall not wear them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

The crowd repeated: “We will remember them.”

After the 90-minute ceremony, Marie who grew up in Paris, said she was struck by how well-attended the event was on a wintry morning. “Boy were there ever a lot of new faces,” she observed.


Carol, who is adjusting to small-town life, was stirred by the coming together of old and young. From babies bundled up blankets in their wagons to veterans wrapped in eiderdowns in their wheelchairs, everyone was united in the act of remembrance and gratitude.

Carol Goar

Spectral stirrings highlight Ghost Walk

A chilly, damp mist hung in the air, creating an aureole around the moon. It was a perfect night for the Paris Museum’s “Ghost walk” led by board member and paranormal hobbyist Michael Flewelling.

Twenty-three hardy souls turned out for the trek to St. James Anglican Cemetery; some serious about detecting signs from the long-departed, other curious to see where Michael would lead them.

He gave participants a quick briefing before leaving the museum, asking everyone to keep an open mind and tread carefully. He explained that he and his mother-in-law Ina would attempt to communicate with the town’s founders, using special paranormal devices.

The graveyard was pitch black, except for the odd flashlight. But it seemed the spirits were stirring. Michael and Ina picked up signs of activity almost immediately. Using their communication devices asked they Hiram Capron, the founder of Paris, if he approved of strangers tromping through the cemetery. He answered with 2 flashes — an emphatic no. Nonetheless he was willing to answer other questions about his identity, lineage and family.

Michael and Ina let participants to use their devices to converse with ancestors buried in the cemetery. People fanned out, looking for particular moments and attempting to communicate with departed family members. Using a night-vision camera, Michael captured the scene:

Intrepid wanderers in the graveyard

Some participants developed a real interest in the paranormal, others weren’t sure. But that didn’t stop the group from heading over to the Arlington Hotel to discuss the experience over drinks and tasty food. The evening was the first joint venture between PMHS and the Arlington.

Carol Goar

Ghost Walk, October 28th, 2017

Just a quick summary of last nights event (I know some of you were in attendance). We had a total of 23 on our walk who braved the chilly night. My mother-in-law Ina assisted with utilizing some of the paranormal equipment. We even had folks who brought their own equipment. We had some spirits out and folks had some very unique experiences. We then had 18 people continue on to the Arlington for some yummy food and drinks. I was very pleased with the turn out and interest of those who attended. Thanks to Marie and Hilary who helped with checking people in.

Here are a few examples of ghost walk experiences…

Marie was able to confirm with a spirit by the name of Susan that she was truly at peace. Then there was a group that had communication from a little boy who was sitting in the tree. He was very playful and in the same location Hilary’s daughter said it sounded as though something exhaled in her ear. Also my mother-in-law Ina snapped a photo of an orb in that same location. The photo was taken with a special full spectrum camera which is why the people are blurred.

Michael Flewelling