All roads lead to Dunvegan

9 Sep

One under-appreciated gem of Dunvegan’s annual Harvest Fall Festival — scheduled for this coming Sunday, September 13th, from 11 AM to 4 PM — is the Agricultural Demonstration area. Tucked into the southeast corner of the museum grounds (near the Stewart Barn), it is often overlooked by Festival visitors. Which is a shame.

This year, the demonstrations of agricultural “best practices” from pioneer times will include a horse sweep, a bale press and a Moody threshing mill. In the days before tractors and the like, the horse sweep was an ingenious way of converting actual horse power into horsepower to drive farm implements. Similarly, the bale press streamlined the process of feed storage by compacting hay into rectangular bales. But the real star of the show is the Moody threshing mill, technology that revolutionized the harvesting of grain.

On the plus side, the Moody mill and other developments in agricultural technology in the early 1800s, allowed farmers to greatly increase their output. However, these advances came with a price. By replacing the need for farm labourers to thresh grain by hand, jobs were lost and many workers were forced to the brink of starvation.

I was struck by the similarity between this unintended consequence and modern research into the impact of robots on the workplace being done by Henry Siu from the University of British Columbia. In an article in last Saturday’s Vancouver Sun, Douglas Todd wrote: “(Siu) is one of many growing uneasy about what will happen to millions of jobs with the rise of warehouse robots, checkout screens, fast-food delivery gadgets, flying drones, driverless cars and ultra-sophisticated professional software.”

But I digress. My intent here was to tell you what’s in store at this year’s Harvest Fall Festival. In addition to pioneer agricultural implements in action, there will demonstrations by over 25 period-appropriate artisans including: a blacksmith, quilters and weavers, a leather worker, a rope maker and a bee keeper… to name but a few. Volunteers will also be demonstrating how to make fresh-churned butter and ice cream.

Interwoven amongst these pioneer craft demonstrations will be live music by Leo Paquette & Family, Grace Graham, Aaron Pritchard, the Glengarry Girls’ Choir, Doug MacPherson & Co. and the Caddell Family… plus children’s pioneer games and crafts, a scarecrow contest (entries can be no taller than 18” and must be built around a stick that can be stuck in the ground), a schoolteacher in the schoolhouse and a penny candy booth. There will also be the Harvest Sale Tent filled to bursting (I hope) with preserves, local produce, baked goods, and plants and more. The goods on display are all donated and the monies raised will go toward keeping the Museum’s doors open.

For those of you who have never attended this unique and extremely popular annual event, you should make a point of catching the renowned Horse-powered Parade. Led by the Quigley Highlanders Pipes and Drums band, the parade commences at 1:00 and snakes its way through the streets of Dunvegan. And, if you and your kids are into animals, be sure to stop by the Petting Zoo, as well as the rare breeds exhibit put on by the Heritage Livestock Club of Eastern Ontario.

Chances are, with all this fun and frivolity, you’ll work up a serious appetite and thirst. Luckily, to help with the former, the Dunvegan Recreation Association concession tent will be dishing up delicious BBQ sausages, beef-on-bun and generous slices of home-baked pie. And for the latter, the Star Inn bar will be open and serving Beau’s Beer and Ontario wine.

Admission to the event is $10 for adults ($5 for members), $25 for families and children under 12 are free. This year’s festival is co-sponsored by Caisse Populaire de la Vallée, Commonwell Mutual Insurance Group and many other local businesses.

The Glengarry Pioneer Museum is located in Dunvegan on County Road 24. Parking is available by the side of the road or in the nearby Presbyterian Church parking lot. Accessible parking (the new politically-correct term) is also available.

Battle of Glengarry Update

Event coordinator, Jim Mullin, kindly sent me another update on the 1812 reenactment weekend scheduled to invade Dunvegan September 26th and 27th. At the top of Jim’s report was news that the reenactors will be holding an “education day” for participating schools on Friday. September 25th.

All together, over 300 students are expected to attend: 90 from Glengarry District High School, 50 from St. Jude Catholic School, 126 from Pleasant Corners Public School and 35 from Terres des Jeunes. The format will be similar what was done the last two years… small groups will visit a series of ‘stations’ throughout the grounds to see 15 minute presentations on a wide range topics from this period in history.

As for the re-enactment itself, Jim reports that there will be a lot more to see, with an even greater focus on bringing history to life. For example, real-life physician, Dr. Gregory Baran, will be bringing his antique medical equipment and surgical tools to Dunvegan and even a body to help transform the Campbell Barn into a fully functional field hospital. He will be conducting Q&A interpretation throughout the day on Saturday.

Immediately after Saturday’s battle, the hospital will come to life as the wounded are brought to him. Fittingly, at the end of the medical manoeuvres, one of the dead will be brought to the Kenyon Presbyterian Church graveyard for a burial.

And that’s not all…

– 1812 historian, author and speaker, Richard Feltoe, will be returning to give a presentation and MC the War of 1812 Fashion Show.

– Julia Danskin and her Gaelic choir will be performing.

– A baker will build an onsite oven to demonstrate bread making. (Here’s hoping his wares will also be for sale.)

– Other reenactors will demonstrate tinsmithing, ropemaking and the moulding of musket balls.

– Crysler’s Farm Battlefield will be bringing back their smoke-belching 6-pounder cannon and the 19th Light Dragoons will return with their cavalry horses.

– The Maxville Lions Club will be hosting a hearty hot breakfast from 7 to 10 AM at the DRA Hall for just $8.00 per person. Proceeds raised will help fund the re-enactment.

– And on Sunday at 9:30 AM, the Kenyon Presbyterian Church will host an 1812 themed worship service followed by an after-church tea in the Museum’s pavilion.

All-in-all, this marvellous weekend “trip back in time” sounds like it will be a real winner. I urge you to not to miss it.

“Back in my day…”

We’ve all heard our grandparents tell how easy young folks have it today. We’re told that, in days of old, their generation had to trudge five miles to school… morning, after class and even recess. But these claims pale in comparison to the dedication actually demonstrated by three 12 year-old girls from Roxborough back in 1864.

According to the commemorative booklet History of Roxborough Baptist Church published in 2000, the young ladies would walk barefoot, carrying their shoes, to attend Sunday services at the Notfield Baptist church in what is today known as Dominionville. Back then, the prosperous little village was known as Notfield. It was rechristened Dominionville in 1867 to honour Confederation.

The trio had attended a revivalist prayer meeting given by two student ministers where their faith had been “awakened.” I’m not sure in which part of Roxborough the girls actually lived, but we’re probably talking a minimum of a three hour trek each way. Their devotion encouraged others from Roxborough to join the Notfield Church and, in 1865, the group asked for permission to form a separate church in Tayside. The congregation was publically recognized as a regular Baptist church on August 30, 1865, with 23 names on the list of founding members.

Five years later, on September 7, the Roxborough Baptist Church opened its doors. Some of the members had wanted a brick church. Others preferred one built of square cedar logs. However, because of cost considerations, the end result was a 34’ x 44’ frame building. And that is the clapboard structure that still stands today… minus the black box stove in each of the back corners, the coal oil lamps along the side walls and the large kerosene chandelier hanging in the centre of the room.

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, the Museum is exploring the possibility of preserving this simple, but historic, structure by having it moved to Dunvegan.

I also mentioned that the addition would provide a venue for couples to exchange wedding vows. So I was surprised to learn when reading about the church’s history that only two weddings were ever performed there when the church was active… one in 1935 and the other in 1949. However, since the church closed, the building has hosted several more ceremonies.

I have been collecting reminiscences of this proud old building. However, as I am out of time and space for this column, these will have to wait until next week.