Donning my orange shirt, I got Max out for a quick walk on city sidewalks, dropped him home to a delicious breakfast (yeah, right?) and hopped in the car for a road trip to Claresholm, Alberta. My friend-descendants of British Home Children were gathering for a display opportunity in the Claresholm Exhibition Hall and I really wanted to join them. Yesterday was the first National British Home Child Day and I felt very pleased for the recognition and the remembrances that were shared yesterday by descendants who had grown up with mystery, secrets and shame around their ancestry. I think that the disconnect from any roots at all is likely the most upsetting aspect of growing up in home child culture…very few children ever found solace in a relationship with siblings or Mom or Dad. There was a helplessness there, a disconnect and a sense of true abandonment, often in powerlessness against abuse of all sorts.
In Canada, so many years later, families are hard at work, trying to unearth unspoken histories and share narratives that have been revealed via contact with the people who continue to house the files and reports on our ancestral family. At a price and with great patience, piece by piece, we are all discovering who our people were, though most will discover that, at a point, the information will drop off. Never did our ancestors show up on a Canadian census unless they were working as domestics in very wealthy homes. I know that I have not found my great grandfather on any binding document between ages 13 and 21. Those eight years are gone, although the families under which he was employed are well-documented in the foot prints of time.
On a lighter note, I was so pleased to find Bruce and Connie, Hazel and John gathered before a beautiful display. Hazel worked very hard to establish our representation at the open house and I have much gratitude for her efforts and her lovely display. I appreciate that Bruce collected both Connie and John for the afternoon drive on such a cold and blustery day. And I thank Bruce for the lovely addition to our Western Canadian collection, the poster featuring our new logo. Excellent.
Although I have other photographs of my four friends, I enjoy the fact that John Vallance’s true personality is showing through here and that Connie is taking it all in. If any of you would like a more formal photograph for your files, just contact me.
The program that the Claresholm museum hosted was fabulous! I want to thank the town and its people who extended their hospitality. I know that it was a cold and grey day, but the events and the people created a warm and happy experience for all in attendance. I really enjoyed the sincere presentation/words and hoop dance performed by Sandra Lamouche. Due to lighting, very few of my photographs give justice to her performance and I hope that my readers will take a look at her website.
At a point, Bruce, Connie and I went for a cup of tea in a neighbouring restaurant and we enjoyed a very yummy lunch. It was nice to catch up with Bruce and Connie. They are great people and I am so happy that they are in my life, with a common interest of family research and history. I also had the opportunity to wander both the exhibition hall and the museum. There is nothing like a focused wander through a museum, especially one with an RCAF display! I enjoyed conversations with two ‘hookers’ who produce amazing works in the tradition of East Coast hooking and a lady who descends from family in Norway. Very interesting stories and generous contributions!
When I pulled out of my parking spot to head home at 4:30, I could still hear the ringing of beautiful music coming out of the concert tent. Today was a perfect day and I’m grateful for the opportunity to enjoy another Alberta Culture Day.
Remember…please…Leave NO CHILD BEHIND!
Off the top…a great book recommendation made by Bill MacDonnell, Landscape and Memory by Simon Schama.
From the section of Streams of Consciousness Chapter 5…this preface by Gaston Bachelard.
“I was born in a country of brooks and rivers, in a corner of Champagne, called Le Vallage for the great number of its valleys. The most beautiful of its places for me was the hollow of a valley by the side of fresh water, in the shade of willows…My pleasure still is to follow the stream, to walk along its banks in the right direction, in the direction of the flowing water, the water that leads life towards the next village…Dreaming beside the river, I gave my imagination to the water, the green, clear water, the water that makes the meadows green. …The stream doesn’t have to be ours; the water doesn’t have to be ours. The anonymous water knows all my secrets. And the same memory issues from every spring.”
― Gaston Bachelard, Water and Dreams: An Essay on the Imagination of Matter
These summarize my general sense of landscape and more specifically, place.
Just as I think that our narratives inhabit objects, and without materialism, contain our affections and memory, I believe that particular places do the same.
On Labour Day, my son and I headed to Magrath, Alberta to say good-bye to a house…my Auntie Ruth’s home…because on September 15, it will be possessed by a new family after all of these years. James and I listened to CBC radio programming all the way south to Lethbridge. It seems to me that a story on whistle blowers in places of employment kept us engaged for most of the journey. The miles, as is usual, went by quickly. Once traveling the 23 across from Claresholm, Barons was just around the corner and then, with coulees in sight, I felt as though I was home.
Rolling into Magrath, the first stop was the old house. My cousins have been sorting and downsizing and cleaning…a very difficult experience, as I recall from the days when my parents went through the same process. As I stepped into the house, all of the memories of childhood and adulthood rushed back to the surface. There’s just no stopping that particular experience. I snapped a few photographs…while Auntie Ruth had already moved…she was still absolutely present to my experience of memory and love.
Last week, my cousin wrote that he had found a package of negatives in among Ruth’s things…and much like I do at such discoveries, he set out and had them developed. Here, is a scan of one of those photographs. My parents, in 1954, brother John, a year old and one, a photograph of my Grandfather, John Moors, with his dog at Greg Lake.
“His use of architectural phenomenology lets the mind loose to make its way, always ready for what might emerge in the process. The house is ‘the topography of our intimate being’, both the repository of memory and the lodging of the soul – in many ways simply the space in our own heads. He offered no shortcuts or routes of avoidance, since ‘the phenomenologist has to pursue every image to the very end’.”
If one does not move carefully through a house/home, one might not capture these bits of magic or ephemera that remain silenced by time and circumstance. I’m grateful to my cousin who discovered those negatives, flattened amid the bric-a-brac.
Our footsteps echoed in the house, as James and I traveled room to room. And while memories flooded my walk, my son James had a completely different experience of place and quietly uttered the words, “This is so sad.”
I remember the front door always being open or unlocked. Family came and went.
My father asked me to take a photograph of the front door. Several times repaired or renovated, my father had recollection of an incident from his childhood in this part of the house. I’m publishing that recollection, here, as it was written.
“Well the problem is Kath this new door had the hole above it fixed. Anyway my dad and his buddies came home from hunting birds one day in Magrath Alberta . Of course they were half cut (as dad told me years later”if you are going to drink just drink good scotch and you will never have a hang over”. Well that day Dad left a shell in his single barrel 12 gauge shot gun. I being an inquisitive young lad wanted them all to know ( Mom and the whole family was in that little living room); anyway I lined up the duck flying above the door cocked the gun and pulled the trigger.. BAM you should have heard the screems and the shot about knocked me on my butt but there was a neat round hole firght through trim at the top of the door which appeared just seconds after a big guy way over 6 feet had walked in. Dad was the only one who got supreme heck for having a loaded gun in the house. Now I have bared my soul to all those interested.PS I was about 7 or so when this happened..”
I remember fried eggs and bacon cooking….the smell of toast freshly-popped. I remember my mother’s laughter in this kitchen. I will always remember where my Auntie sat.
The back room…I remember the ceiling being lined with cardboard egg cartons. I remember my cousins and drumming and laughter. I remember the door from this room out to the back, always open. I remember summer.
I remember Linda. I remember sleepovers. I remember lots of quilts and pillows.
I remember food supply.
Objects of the every day.
I remember the gardens…the lilies…the geraniums…the hanging baskets.
More than anything, I remember my Auntie sitting on the front porch.
From the house, James and I went for visits with both his Great Aunties…Ruth and then Eleanor. We are so blessed to have these women in our lives, as well as my Auntie Jackie and Auntie Mary. I lift up prayers for all…for their health and their safety and that we keep memories such as I enjoyed with my son, close to our hearts.
Just this morning, and the reason for this post, I interviewed Auntie Ruth over the telephone, about her home.
Back in early 1940s, my Gramma and Grampa moved to Magrath, mostly in an effort to help their young daughter, Ruth, fight the symptoms of asthma. The humid air in Ontario seemed to really irritate her breathing and my grandparents were willing to try anything.
The first home they lived in was rented from a Ukrainian family. I am in the process of researching their name. Water was manually pumped from a well on the property. There was an outhouse and bathing happened in the middle of the kitchen floor in a round tub. Auntie Ruth remembers the water being heated in a kettle on a wood/coal stove.
Magrath had two stores at the time, the Trading Company and Louis Stevenson’s store. There was a black smith shop on main street, as well as a show house. There were no sidewalks in the town.
When Ruth turned 16, she remembers that the family moved into a white stucco house, the very house that James and I visited on September 1 of this year. She remembers that Eleanor, Margaret and Johnny went off to school in the town, located where today’s school stands but, of course, a much smaller building. During the war, Ruth worked at one of the blanket-making machines in the Golden Fleece Woolen Mill. I’m posting a photograph of that particular mill here…it is not to be confused with the Woolen Mill that my grandfather opened up some years later.
Many contracts came in to the Magrath Golden Fleece Woolen Mill during World War II 1939-1945. My Auntie remembers working there.
A booklet published by the Magrath History and Museum Association and written by John Balderson, explains…
“When in full operation, the Golden Fleece Woolen Mill ran three 8 hour shifts, 24 hours a day. Twenty-five men and women were on each shift making seventy-five individuals in total. Two hundred and twenty five army blankets were made each day using 1,000,000 lbs of wool each year.”
Whenever my Auntie speaks about that time, she mentions the Canadians of Japanese descent who shared her machines with her. She also talks about the shame she feels at how they were treated. She explained to me this morning that eight Japanese-Canadian women were pulled off the Sugar Beet fields, to work in the mill. They were all University educated and lovely, however, shy women. Auntie Ruth said that their housing was comprised of sheds lined up on the far edge of town, rows and rows of sheds where these beautiful and hard-working people were treated as prisoners-of-war. My Auntie will never forget the women she worked with on her shifts.
In terms of the house, my Auntie remembers very good and also, difficult times. She dated my Uncle Roy for four months when they got married and moved to Lethbridge, Uncle Roy worked for Western Drilling. Ruth was 20 at the time. Auntie Ruth will always tell you that the Korean War finished off her husband. And all these years later, having read about the war and discovered the exposure these soldiers had to Mustard Agent and Lewisite as well as the bizarre view of PTSD at the time and the irresponsible treatment of these veterans, it is absolutely no wonder that he and his family, struggled upon his return.
I remember vacation days in both Magrath (at my Auntie Ruth’s and at my Grandparent’s place in front of the mill) and Raymond (at my Auntie Eleanor and Uncle Ted’s place). In fact, I regret that I didn’t have the chance to grieve the farmhouse in Raymond like I did this house. I remember much family laughter. I remember the smell of a slow-cooked blade roast in the oven. I remember my Grandmother’s laughter. I remember the smell of wool.
This past weekend, I said good-bye to a place. That does not mean that it does not remain with me…always.
I continue to be blessed by individuals who somehow land upon a post of mine now-and- again, (quite often, recently), as it relates to family. I have often come across old photographs, military medals and treasures in second-hand shops and thought to myself, “I hope that our family treasures are always cherished and remain with our families, somehow.” Well, in this world of digital imaging, more and more, photographs of our loved ones surface and just as I have shared with others…others share with me.
I am hoping that in the morning, my family members are surprised by these recent gifts from a man who I will simply refer to as Phil.
Yesterday’s e mail, in my inbox, began like this…
I know Mom & Dad (can’t recall if ‘Granny’ was with them) stopped in Magrath years ago on a trip. I can’t recall if they connected with anyone though. I seem to recall Dad saying there weren’t any/many Moors left there…”
Phil began by sharing two photographs, along with their annotations. I immediately forwarded the e mail to my father and he very shortly responded via Skype, sharing stories about his three oldest sisters and the three gents that they dated…all horse-riding cowboys. Off they would go for their rides together, evenings, in the herd pastures of McIntyre Ranch. *OOPS! A mistake…Dad has sent me corrections, here.
“It was not Mcintyre ranch herd pasture. It
was the Magrath herd pasture where all our cows were pastured every day
!!! Rob worked at the ranch as I recall ‘but even that may be wrong
cause we all owned horses in Magrath and Raymond in those days even me .
Love you big good work.”
It is an amazing thing, this lovely collection featuring my aunties. Beautiful Margaret is now passed on, but Auntie Eleanor just enjoyed her 90th birthday…as did Auntie Ruth, a couple of years ago. Auntie Mary, the youngest, was not to be excluded from this set. Also featured, my Gramma Florence Moors, my Great Auntie Caroline; her son, Orval who flew with the Canadian Navy and would not have lived much beyond these two photographs, having served on the battleship, HMCS Magnificent, (was a Majestic-class light aircraft carrier that served the Royal Canadian Navy from 1948–1957.) meeting an early demise when the plane he was flying, crashed. His little sister, Joan, is also present in one of the photographs.
Based on the annotations, it seems likely that Auntie Ruth sent some of these archives…some might have been mailed, along with letters, by my Gramma Moors to these friends in the east.
I am amazed by the generous hearts of people who take the time to scan and forward such treasures on to me. I do not take any of this for granted.
Family, do enjoy and copy and save these to your own archives. I love you all. Thank you, Phil, for taking this time.
And, here’s dear little Mary Jane.
Today, I enjoyed a yummy lunch at the Blackfoot Diner with Phil and his wife, Cindy, and they generously gave me the original photographs that you see above. I am blessed.
This is a very brief post that serves only to express gratitude for the recent and generous connections I have made related to my Great Grandfather John Moors (1876 – 1918). What a wonderful thing it is to have cousins discover my writings and research and to respond! These Paternal relations include Charlene, Jacqueline and now, James. Thank you, for your connection. For about 15 years, I’ve been fanatically engaged in research on both my mother and father’s sides of the family.
Some would ask, “Why does it matter?…or… “What does it all mean, anyway?”…but, there is something innate within me that wants to know who my people are. It is a weakness.
Long-story-short, I have always looked for a photograph of my Dad’s Grandfather, in uniform. Every Remembrance Day, I was disappointed that I had only the image of his wedding day. He died and is buried in Etaples, France. He was lying in General Canada Hospital #51, when during the night, a bombing raid orchestrated by the Germans, decimated most of the location and killed John Moors. I’ve thought that he should be remembered. Don’t get me wrong. I was happy about having the wedding photograph…but, imagine my excitement when, randomly, Charlene sent a photograph over the internet from her home to mine…and to, in a flash, have my Great Grandfather’s visage appear face-to-face with me on a screen in 2018. GAHHHHH!
Enough said…first, our family’s single archive up until now…my Great Grandmother Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors in the center front and my Great Grandfather John Moors back right.
I took this photograph of a photograph that my Auntie Eleanor had hanging in her home. When it comes to gathering family history, I’m not super fussy about archival quality of images. It’s a simple blessing to have moments of history sustained and easily available to as many family members as is possible and as quickly as possible. I think I’ve written about this before…that ‘in the day’ how would family members even include one another in these histories? We are sooo blessed!
Here he is! My Great Grandfather! What a handsome man! My father said he had striking red hair, much like my own Grandfather Moors did and now, my own beautiful daughter.
I’m hoping that Betty Silver’s daughter has an opportunity to see this as I know that she was on the look out for the very same image, saying (as other relations remembered) that a large framed photograph of John in uniform hung in the family dining room.
Second to this, Charlene shared what looks like a younger image of this John.
He looked dapper. I try to imagine as I look at this image, that here is captured the 13 year old who came by ship, on his own…a British Home Child who worked very hard on at least three farm placements including Elora and two outside of Guelph. This was likely taken during his Hamilton days.
And finally, a family photograph including my own Grandfather John Moors, his young brother Robert (Bob), his sister, Grace and his mother, Mary Eleanor Haddow Moors. Mary Eleanor had striking dark eyes and hair…I see a lot of my father in her. This would have been taken some time after the passing of their father and husband John Moors.
And finally, something that I just received tonight…icing on the cake! My first cousin once-removed, James, has provided photographs of front and back of John’s military medal. I’m so grateful that unlike so many families, this object has been cared for and cherished so that now, so many years later, all can enjoy. Blessings on my family for their generous work. My cousin, Teddy Witbeck, has been doing a remarkable job working on our family tree on Family Search. As we continue to piece together our history, his work can be accessed. Trust me, you will have a great head start that way!
Love you all.
I’ve written away and had much support attaining John’s military record…this medal assignment was included there.
Recently, like everyone else, I’ve been swept up in more fear and anger than usual because of the shifting tides of political, economic and philosophical posturing the world over. We try, surrounded by the bombardment of ideas, reactions and media, to sort and sift things out, but sometimes, regardless of our efforts, cave to the tumult.
I was feeling the darkness of our times.
It seemed that last evening, there was a shift of this dark into light, as my dear cousin living in Utah, sent me a message to give him a call. He’s known for a long time that I have a big heart for family research, and a desire to find the pieces of our history, however narrative in nature and lacking in the documentation required to make real sense. He and I, both, have worked on our paternal side for a very long time, in our own ways, if you count up all of the years between us.
I weep this morning, as I type here, about the lovely conversation shared between Dr. Ted (our name of affection for him) and myself. Ted lead me through some of his research on our family. It was like bags of sweets laid out before me. (Remember that feeling as a child?) He guided me patiently, while the both of us logged on to a family ancestral site…this is a fan chart…click on person…click on tree…this is who this person was…and this one…here is the document…And so it went! Any of you who do this sort of work know how generous this gesture of love is. My grandfather, John Moors, would be so pleased. My father, John Moors, will be, when he reads this. Blessed! I love you, Ted! And I will pour over every detail bit by bit and so much will be revealed to me!
This morning, I decided to continue to focus on the unbelievable possibility of the positive. Rolling out of bed, I stepped into my slippers and shuffled upstairs to go through my morning rituals. As a single woman, I typically do a day’s dishes in the evening, later than you choose, I’m sure, but, just the way I do things. Last evening, I didn’t. I expected to bury my hands and arms into warm sudsy water while the coffee maker burbled. I like doing these things, although when I had a partner, I was over the moon about having a cup of coffee prepared for me and delivered to the sofa, while I either read the paper or eased into the day. Rituals change and I have become very happy about treating myself to those tender gestures of support and kindness.
I woke to a note on my kitchen counter.
do when I come
My adult daughter and a gesture of love…makes everything feel different, doesn’t it? When someone does you a kindness? Little effort, but a whole spin that takes you to a place of reassurance and gratitude. Thank you, Cayley.
I opened up Twitter while I sipped on this first hot cup of coffee. This, after turning on the Tallest Man on Earth. (My cousin Peter finally showed me how to connect to those lovely speakers over there, with Bluetooth).
My friend, Wendy, had posted this…and I felt so grateful. Something about me? Really? The artist? And the title of the piece, STABILITY! Thank you, Wendy!
I’m feeling that these three gestures of love are a small smattering that represent the possibilities that are available to me today, these and the warm nuzzle of my Max Man pushing up against my thigh, here at the computer desk. “Let’s go, Mom! Let’s walk!” Today, let’s all look for the gestures of love in our lives and look away from the natural draw to worry and sadness that pull at our heart strings these days, often issues that we have no control over. Let’s simply do what we can, with a real focus of what are the blessings of our lives. Create!
The week began with Live Painting at Congress 2016, a huge event hosted by the University of Calgary that included ‘six interdisciplinary symposia to exhibit the university’s most compelling and leading-edge thinking and research.’ The symposia on Compassion Under Contemporary Conditions was inspired by University of Calgary assistant professors Shane Sinclair and Graham McCaffrey, ‘who share a mutual research and practical interest in the topic and in sparking conversation and debate around some of the realities of compassion.’
The topic, Compassion Under Contemporary Conditions, really inspired me and I was thrilled that I would have opportunity to hear Margaret Atwood speak as I find her very entertaining, closely linked to family and very very smart.
At home, I shot about loading easel, panel and STUFF into the car. At the U of C, I was met, early, by Allan Rosales who made the invitation for me to submit my artistic intention a week earlier. Allan was helpful and very gracious. I also met Zareen and friend, from the University visual arts department, as they displayed a beautiful art exhibit based on compassion. It wasn’t long and I was settled alongside artists Mark Vazquez-Mackay and Rebecca Zai. As the day opened up, Mark seemed to be painting the various layers and facets of compassion and his piece was breath taking. Rebecca was working from a photo reference that she had taken while on one of her international travels, a person demonstrating care for the ordinary street cats of his village. Again, a beautiful painting!
Hmmm…doesn’t seem I have a completed painting by Rebecca in my photo archives. I’ll grab one and post later.
It was a blessing day, as it revealed itself. I thought it was very gracious of both Shane and Graham to come and introduce themselves and chat a little about art and life. While my painting was not completed by end of day, there were a lot of different feelings that I moved through in the process and I was very excited to begin the journey of painting a body of work based on British Home Children that I’ve been researching for probably, WAY TOO LONG. I interviewed descendant, Janet Fair, such a long time ago. Her grandfather, Sidney Emms Prodgers, was about to become my very first subject.
Home! I’ll take Sidney into the studio to complete…so happy with the process!
I was grateful to hear Margaret Atwood’s talk on Compassion…the humour woven throughout, colourful experiences of nurses and health care providers, historically, leading up to contemporary issues, as well. I thought a lot about my sister as I listened. I’m grateful for Valerie Jean Fiset, more than she will probably ever know. She has had a most inspiring journey and I am so proud of her. I likely should have brought along some of my Atwood books for signatures…I’m not surprised that I forgot.
Another blessing during the course of the day was to have a visit with a dear friend, Dr. Rita Irwin. Our friendship began while we both achieved our B. Ed degrees at the University of Lethbridge. She wandered over to my location, along with three of her witty and smart friends, and had a short but amazing visit. Another strong and accomplished woman; I simply loved our shared big hugs and the familiar ring of Rita’s voice and laughter.
Given that I’m a big family historian, it’s strange that my own name appears nowhere on our family quilt, presented to my grandfather and grandmother Moors in 1978. But then, I think that my brother, Stuart, is also missing…so, that’s life. ;0)
What I dearly love is that my mother’s embroidery…her handwriting…and her wishes appear here. It’s as though Mom made me a little visit today as I was documenting the quilt.
I thought that if I photographed each of the squares, the family, as it was shaped in 1978 (because families change…you know it…for all sorts of different reasons), people might want to save a digital photo for their own history. I think it’s pretty darned special.
I dug through my own personal photographs, taken with an old film camera and found these two references. I like that my Auntie Eleanor is present in one and that my Auntie Ruth is in the other.
I think that might be my Auntie Mary in the background here, with Laura Lee on her hip…not certain.
My own family was represented by the following squares, lovingly embroidered by Mom. Dad’s features a big muskie he once caught…
I hope that my family, after celebrating such a wonderful party this past weekend in Magrath, will enjoy these posts and perhaps tuck a few squares away in their files! Play list from 1978…just let this Youtube go…
From the same reunion, my cousin, Danny…then…
I’ve suspended my writing for the week because I’m teaching elementary children on a month long contract and I’m focused and inspired and need to line up all my jelly beans. What I really want to sustain over this month is my time in nature because things are evolving so quickly out there…and so many new birds are on the wing.
I’m writing diligently about an art tour that I took at Pason Systems on this past Saturday…one piece at a time…it was such a fabulous experience! I suppose I’ll publish that during the coming weekend.
…here’s an exception. I felt I needed to write my gratitude for Wendy Lee’s invitations to meet and listen to the music of Ruth Purves-Smith, accompanied by the fantastic guitar player, David Holloway. So, for Juno weekend, I ended up having time on Sunday to attend Wendy’s house concert where chili was served, chilled white wine and the most wonderful company ever! It was a hub of Juno energy and such a down-to-earth experience.
It turns out that Ruth’s father, Bill Purves-Smith and his wife, Fen Roessingh, have a connection to my own family patriarch, John Moors…and so, Ruth and I are connected by the beautiful warm smell and coziness of wool! My grandfather is pictured below, a young man, in the throws of excitement about wool.
Bill Purves-Smith and a photograph that appeared on his memorial 1934-2011.
This story about the collision between Ruth’s family and my own appears on the Custom Woolen Mills website…
Fen Roessingh and husband Bill Purves-Smith developed a keen interest in weaving while studying at the Leighton Centre near Calgary, Alberta in the 1970’s. After being given a truck-load of raw wool in order to pursue their weaving, they began searching to find a mill that would process it into yarn. This took them to Magrath, Alberta, to work with John Moors in his mill, Wool Carding and Spinning. John had started in the woolen mill business at the age of 12 as a bobbin boy and worked his way up to running his own mill. When Fen and Bill came to work with him, John was in his 70’s and looking for someone to take over his business. Game for a challenge and motivated by their love of fibre arts, Fen and Bill bought the mill from John and moved it to Carstairs. They then acquired a wool washing system and additional carding machines from a small mill called Custom Woolen Mills in Sifton, Manitoba. The mill was owned by Anna Weselowski who, also in her 70’s, was looking to retire. Combined, the new mill was called Custom Woolen Mills Ltd. Wool Carding and Spinning, but everyone just called it Custom Woolen Mills for short. Over 35 years later, Custom Woolen Mills is still going strong; a hub in the community, a multigenerational family enterprise, and a producer of quality, Canadian grown and manufactured wool products.
Of course, as soon as I could, I grabbed onto Ruth…gave her a big hug…and we began to spill out the memories. I loved hearing about her playing in the back of the mill and watching the old television…I could picture it all.
Thank you for the stories, Ruth…and the music…and the generous heart. Thank you David for the absolutely amazing guitar accompaniment and the talk of clocks. And most of all, thank you to Wendy and Dan for their hospitality and for the sharing, always, of music and art! Good to see so many friends that we now share and for the introduction to so many more!
It was a wonderful experience…bought the recent CD….so should you!
Historical building, yes, but also a workplace for my Summerside family for so many years! I can not help but keep the images of the place in my heart because it is a place that is a part of my identity, just as the woolen mill, here in the west, is. The description and historical significance appears below in blue and was collected from this site.
DESCRIPTION OF HISTORIC PLACE
The large three-storey flat roofed warehouse at 340 Water Street is clad in white vinyl. It is located west of the Central Street intersection overlooking the harbour. It is situated between the street and the former railway line now part of the Trans Canada Trail. The registration includes the building and its lot.
The large three-storey structure at 340 Water Street has been a landmark on the harbourfront of Summerside for over 130 years. It has considerable historical significance as the warehouse of the prominent Lefurgey family who shipped produce in vessels that were constructed on the land south of the building.
The plain building was built for John E. Lefurgey who purchased the lot running south to the shoreline in 1873. The date of the building’s construction is assumed to be before 1878 when its presence is marked on Ruger’s Panoramic Map. Its shape indicates that it was constructed to run adjacent to the railroad bed which was laid in the early 1870s.
Mr. Lefurgey, who had come to Green’s Shore in the 1850s as a general merchant, built many ships to use in his business of shipping oats and potatoes to markets in Great Britain. The large warehouse building provided ample space for the storage of produce. Mr. Lefurgey was active in town affairs and represented the Summerside area in the House of Assembly from 1870 to 1890.
After his death in 1891, the estate was left in the hands of his wife, the former Dorothea Read, and his son, William. When William died in 1893, his brothers, John Ephraim (J.E.) and Alexander Alfred (A.A.) took over the family business. J.E. Lefurgey was well known in the community and served for a time on the town council. In 1905, he purchased real estate in Vancouver and shortly afterwards settled there. Alfred Lefurgey, a Harvard law graduate, served in the PEI Legislature in 1897 and was elected to the House of Commons in 1900, representing East Prince until 1908.
The Lefurgey warehouse passed from family ownership in 1909. The new owner of the substantial property was William H. Edgett, a produce dealer in Moncton. He and John Grady, the accountant for the firm of David Rogers & Sons for many years, formed the Edgett Grady Company for the purpose of buying and selling local produce. The business was bought out in 1912 by the Montreal firm of Gunn Langlois, which specialized in the handling and shipping of eggs and poultry.
In 1916, during W.W. I, all three floors of the eastern portion of the building were used by the 105th Battalion for the sleeping quarters of Summerside recruits. In December of that year, after a major fire on Water Street destroyed many buildings, the firm of Sinclair & Stewart moved several of its departments into the vacated section of the building and occupied it for almost a year.
The firm of Gunn Langlois ceased operations in Summerside around 1932 and the building changed hands in 1933. Lorne MacFarlane, a partner in the MacFarlane Produce Company, became sole owner in August 1934. A month later he sold the portion of land between the building and the edge of the water to Percy Tanton and his son Ray who wanted it for a mill and lumberyard. In 1960, that land became the property of the Irving Oil Company.
Lorne MacFarlane was one of several individuals who formed the PEI Bag Company Limited, which began manufacturing jute bags for the packing and shipping of potatoes and other produce. In 1937, an addition was built on the south side of the structure and in 1941, a sprinkler system was installed. The success and expansion of the bag business eventually necessitated the use of the whole building and in 1944, the MacFarlane Produce Company moved to other premises. Some reinforcement of the building took place in 1949 when a fifteen-ton machine to cut, print, and fold bags, was installed on the third floor.
Over the years, production has expanded to include bags made from paper and polypropylene to meet the needs of customers who package various types of produce, including potatoes. The business has continued to prosper and is currently owned by descendents of its founders.
Source: City of Summerside, Heritage Property Profile
The following character-defining elements illustrate the heritage value of the building:
– the three-storey massing and form of this industrial building with flat roof and large footprint that parallels the adjacent former railway line
– the placement of windows and doors representing a mainly functional purpose, on the north elevation they provide a sense of balance and are 2 over 2
– the ongoing contribution to the historic streetscape reflective of industrial commercial activities
These are my own photographs, snapped during my visit to the island in 2011.
Apparently Roger Wells had plans for the building and this article states that in 2013 the city rejected the idea of using it as storage for antique cars. The article mentions that it was put up for sale at that time. Now, I’m going to go digging to see what’s happened with it since. What an amazing art gallery and studio space that would be!
I know that of my relations, my Auntie Gladys likely worked there the longest.