Lambton Musings - Winter 2023

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Lambton Musings

Travelling Home Forest Museum Staff

In 2021, the Forest Museum received a donation of a spinning wheel with an interesting story. This beautiful wool wheel arrived in carefully padded boxes in a transport truck all the way from Vancouver.

Wool wheels are typified by a large flat rimmed drive wheel. The wheel may have a diameter of almost 50 inches. The whole apparatus stands about five feet tall. The wheel drives the spinning mechanism by means of a cord of tightly twisted cotton or linen. The wheel is mounted on a post rising from a narrow table or bench. The table is usually supported by three legs. The spindle is mounted on a post rising from the front end of the bench. These spinning wheels are also referred to as great wheels because of their size. In North America, particularly in Ontario, they are

The Transportation


often called walking wheels because the spinner has to walk in order to perform her task. She starts close to the spindle with her right hand on the wheel and carded wool in her left hand. As she turns the wheel, she steps back drawing the wool out and allowing the twist from the spindle to bind the fibres together. When she has walked back as far as she can draw, the wheel is reversed and the length of spun yarn wound on the spindle. The floorboards were often considerably worn where the walking wheel was used. It is said an accomplished spinner might walk five miles a day.

This walking wheel has accumulated many miles. It was owned by the same family for 163 years. It was donated to the Forest Museum by Anne Noonan. Her great grandparents James Bell and Mary Rutherford (Scott) Bell married and settled in Bosanquet in 1859.The spinning wheel arrived in Forest the same year on the first Grand Trunk Railway train. James and Mary had three children, Walter, Ellen and Andrew. Anne’s Grandmother Ellen was born in 1866 and married Archibald Walton in 1894.

Walking Wheel Ellen Ellen & Archie

Archie and Ellen had three children, Jamie, George (born in 1897, Anne’s father), and Roland. Ellen and Archie moved to Manitoba and settled near Gilbert Plains where they had a homestead. Archie was a carpenter and built houses in the area. Ellen was gifted in her needlework. In 1903 within two weeks, Archie’s sister died of scarlet fever, his mother experienced a stillbirth and his father died of blood poisoning. Ellen took all the children and moved back to Forest to live with her mother. Anne’s father George enlisted at age 18 and fought in WWI. He was injured in 1917 and sent back to Canada.

After George Walton recovered, he graduated from the University of Toronto as a doctor and subsequently practiced medicine for a few years. Then, he went back to the university and graduated from the School of Hygiene and did research on viruses at Connaught labs. He married and moved to Regina where George was medical health officer for 26 years.

Roland Walton (George’s brother and Anne’s uncle) lived his whole life in Forest. His son Rudd married Alice Spilchuk. Alice Walton was well known in Forest.

This was the family history as told by Anne Noonan. The beloved spinning wheel travelled across Canada to Vancouver and now it has come home again.



the Races: The Career of Alice Fergusson

Lambton County has a rich oil history, and now we heavily associate oil with cars. Oil lubricates and keeps parts running, while gasoline is made from crude oil and used as fuel. When oil was first struck in Oil Springs in 1858, the idea of automobiles was unfathomable. Early oil pioneers like James Miller Williams and the Tripp brothers did not realize the impact that their product would have on the future of transportation. The petroleum craze that spread out from Oil Springs also sparked sportscar racing as a new sport.

The “amateur age” of American/Canadian sportscar racing, which took place during the postwar period from approximately 1950-1970, saw an influx of female participants who became trailblazers for women in the sport. One of these women was Toronto native, Alice Fergusson. She was one of Canada’s first female race and rally drivers, one of Canada’s top female drivers in her active years, and was Toronto’s first female car dealership operator. She often worked alongside her husband, Jim, and they became one of the top husband-wife duos in Canadian racing history.

In 1937, Alice met Jim Fergusson, a professional motorcycle racer, at a party in their hometown of Toronto. Jim was engulfed in the sport and he eventually became a sports car and sedan racer, serving as a team manager, crew chief, mechanic, race and rally organizer, official, racing car designer, and constructor throughout his life. Jim loved the world of automotive and shared his passion with Alice, who recalled “most of our dates consisted of me helping him grind valves for his bikes.”

After Jim and Alice married, Jim inherited his father’s car dealership in Scarborough, where the couple settled. Alice became enveloped in the automotive world and helped in the shops at night after working as a stenographer during the day. Gradually she dropped her stenographer career and became a part time saleswoman at the dealership. While Jim served in World War II, Alice took over full operations of the business. She took a mechanic’s course where she learned how to operate all types of heavy machinery, from farm tractors to bulldozers. This training proved helpful as one winter (when help was limited due to the war) she voluntarily drove a tow-truck around Toronto and pulled drivers out of ditches and snowbanks.

Jim returned from the war in 1945 and resumed full time operations of the dealership, while Alice took over the parts department full time in addition to her own speed shop. In the speed shop, she imported parts internationally and built engines for sports car competitions across Ontario. She became a highly skilled mechanic, as seen in 1952 when she built a stock car engine that set a track record at the Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) raceway. In the local newspaper, she was called “housewife and motor mechanic extraordinary” when introduced, a title very few women carried in the 1950s.

Then in 1950, she entered her first race as a driver. She drove the smallest car in the race near Barrie, a Fiat 500, and was given a 30-minute head start before anyone else because of this. She remembers it being “terribly embarrassing”, but she finished fifth out of 42 drivers all of which were male. Alice noted “racing isn’t just a matter of how much power your car’s got, but how much of it you’re game to use… especially in the turns.” 1955 saw the British Empire Motor Club’s first all-female winter rally team. The British Empire Motor Club is an organization that promotes safe driving and facilitates speed races, skill races, and skill tests. It is a high skill club, and members are suspended if they violate traffic laws. One of their most notorious races is the Winter Rally, a 3-day 2400km trek through highways and backroads in Ontario and Quebec filled with blizzards, ice, and snow. Alice and fellow female Toronto racer, Vivian Petura were the first all-female team to enter the winter rally, and got quite the pushback. They were told not to be upset if they did not finish as many men did not finish this high skill race. Vivian said, “we were bound we would get through, even if we had to come back on the rims.” They did finish the race, braving a blizzard that took out 32 drivers, and finished 13th out of 60.

By 1956, the Fergusson’s had acquired a second car dealership, and Alice ran it full time day to day. She was Toronto’s first female garage owner/operator. She had won dozens of speed and skill trophies by this time making her one of the top female drivers in the country. Along with being one of the top female racers in Canada, Alice became the editor for Small Torque, the British Empire Motor Club’s magazine which is seen today as one of the most valuable sources on the history of Canadian racing.

In their last hurrah together as a racing team, the Fergusson’s competed in the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash of 1972. Jim and Alice were the first, and only Canadian competitors of this unsanctioned street race. The cross-country race started in New York, NY and ended near Los Angeles in Redondo Beach, CA. The rules of the race were simple; “all competitors will drive any vehicle of their choosing, over any route, at any speed they judge practical, between the starting point and destination. The competitor finishing with the lowest elapsed time is the winner.” Jim and Alice came 15th in a Citroën DS 19, one of Alice’s choice racing cars, with a time of 42 hours, 8 minutes. The Cannonball Baker only ran 4 official races in the 1970s and sparked a successful film in the 1980s starring Burt Reynolds, Jackie Chan, and Farrah Fawcett called The Cannonball Run. The Dash would be Alice and Jim’s last major race together as Jim Fergusson passed away in 1976.

Alice Fergusson passed away in 1997. Alice and Jim Fergusson were inducted into the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2004 together for their “purely voluntary remarkable contribution to the development of Canadian motorsport.” Today motorsport is still highly male dominated. Formula One, the highest racing class internationally, has only ever seen five female drivers. Alice Fergusson’s contributions to Canadian automotive in the 1940s-1970s was truly phenomenal as she, along with other women of her time, “established the principle that women could compete alongside men in the ‘major leagues’ of auto sport” in Canada. Alice believed the problem with female drivers, and their negative stereotype, is men themselves. She said at the time, “most husbands only let their wives have the car when there are groceries to be picked up. Then they blow up because the poor gal gets flustered in heavy traffic and dents a fender.”

Jim Fergusson in an Austin Healy at the Edendale Race, 1955. He was the winner as seen with the checkered flag, and this was the same race Alice entered for her first as a driver in 1950.

Image from

Alice Fergusson at the 1958 race at Harewood Acres where she placed third. She is in a Citroën DS 19, the same one raced in the 1972 Cannon Ball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Trophy Dash.

Image from

Outerwear and Accessories

Colleen Inglis, Lambton Heritage Museum

Each year the arrival of winter weather obliges us to rummage through our closets in search of warm clothing and outerwear. It is important to be prepared. Clothing and textiles make up a sizeable portion of the Lambton Heritage Museum collection. Most of these items are safely stored in our Collection Centre. Falling temperatures provide the perfect incentive to explore some of these rarely seen winter clothes and accessories, and a wonderful opportunity to learn how people kept warm long ago.

About one hundred years ago, this navy wool jacket would have been worn by a young boy with matching knee pants. Knee-length pants with tall socks were the norm until boys were about fifteen years old. This single-breasted style has two vertical pleats at the front and back to hold the matching belt. According to the label, this jacket was made by Sanford Juvenile Clothes of Hamilton, Ontario.

A wide variety of winter clothing and accessories are on display in this photo from the early 1900s  Winter wonderland at Rock Glen Falls A navy wool jacket made by Sanford Juvenile Clothes of Hamilton, Ontario

Work clothes are uncommon in museum collections. Well-used, worn out, and often considered too ordinary to save, they usually end up in the trash. This red and black plaid jacket and pants worn by Jack Laird (1896-1977) is an exception. The outfit is a wonderful example of men’s work wear from the 1920s-1930s. Laird was a dairy and grain farmer. He worked in the bush in the Thedford area. His team of horses was renowned. He was frequently called on to drag logs out of the bush for firewood, or to be milled for barn wood and beams.

The jacket was made by Joseph Gould and Sons Limited of Toronto. The pants were made by Deacon Brothers Limited of Belleville, Ontario. Deacon Brothers started business in 1903. They became known as a manufacturer of quality outdoor garments and sportswear, and were a leader in the development of cold weather clothing.

For special occasions, formal outerwear like this black cape was a compromise between fashion and practicality. This cape is made of rich black velvet with ribbed decorations at the shoulder and neck. There are two covered buttons at the neck closure and the cape is lined with soft, satiny material.

This cape is machine-made and was purchased at Smallman & Ingram Limited of London, Ontario. John Bamlet Smallman and Lemuel Hill Ingram established their retail dry goods store in 1877. They were extremely successful. In 1905 they built an L-shaped building at the corner of Richmond and Dundas Streets. There were 96,000 square feet of floor space over five floors plus a basement. The store was sold in 1944 but the building still stands and is now known as Market Tower.

Sleighing was a very popular form of winter transportation. Travelling by sleigh across frozen ground covered with snow was relatively easy and comfortable. In other seasons, wagons, buggies, and carriages could get stuck in the ruts and potholes on muddy roads. Sleighing could be quite elegant. It was a chance to get dressed up, show off your finery, and socialize with friends and family.

Red and black plaid jacket and pants worn by Jack Laird (1896-1977) This cape belonged to the Corey family of Petrolia Members of the Corey family sledding in Petrolia; before heated and enclosed vehicles, warm clothing was a necessity of winter travel

This fur-lined winter coat would have been ideal for sleighing. It is made of black wool with a black lamb’s wool collar. It is double-breasted with oval toggles and braided loops for closure. There are two flap pockets, and the entire coat is lined with mink.

These gloves are made of sheep’s wool and leather. The wide cuff extended to the elbow and could be worn over top of the coat sleeves. The gloves were worn by Catherine Alta Grant (1894-1988), daughter of Elizabeth who owned the fur coat mentioned previously. She used them to keep warm while driving a sleigh or buggy in the early 1900s. Catherine Alta Grant married George Henry Reid at Becher on August 28, 1918.

Winter accessories play an important role in keeping people warm. Although styles have changed, items like boots, scarves, mittens, gloves, and hats have remained popular over the years. One item that has gone out of style is the muff. A muff was usually carried by women and children. The muff was a pouch, similar to the centre pocket on a hoodie that could be used keep one’s hands warm. This worked well if you didn’t need your hands free to do other things.

A muff made of fur and lined with brown silk   Coat worn by Elizabeth Forbes Grant (1858-1937) of Sombra Township for sleighing about 1890-1915  Gloves made of sheep’s wool and leather

Hats and waterproof footwear have remained popular over the years. Fur and faux fur hats, such as the one shown here were worn by women and men. This pair of overshoes would likely have been worn for work or outdoor chores. They would have been worn over top of regular footwear and secured with straps.

Despite the challenges of keeping warm, Canadians have long held a reputation for enjoying winter activities. A wide variety of winter clothing is on display in this photograph of ice skaters at the outdoor McFee skating rink in Sarnia.

Faux fur hat Overshoes made of canvas and oil cloth with rubber soles McFee skating rink in Sarnia

The Community that Farming Built

Lambton County has a rich agricultural history and tradition of growing a diverse selection of food, cash crops, and livestock. When settlers first came to Lambton County, farming was more difficult than it is today. Settlers first arriving and hoping to build a new life on the land had to construct a shelter (typically a log cabin), clear the trees from the land, drain the soil, and plant their crops in time to take advantage of the summer growing season. Many farmers struggled, as one storm, drought, cold spell, or pest could take out their entire crop and leave them with nothing. Despite this, they persevered and laid the foundation for the rich farmland the County has today.

One of the first items harvested by European settlers to the area was maple syrup. Thick and vast swaths of Carolinian forest provided a reliable source of sugar maple trees for harvesters. They tapped the sugar maple trees from mid-February to mid-March, collecting the sap and then boiling it until it formed a thick syrup or until all the liquid boiled away, leaving behind maple-flavoured sugar. In 1861, Lambton County produced 136,496 pounds (about 61913.49 kg) of maple sugar, and in 1921, the County made $24,545 ($381,696 in 2022) from maple syrup products.

Along with maple syrup, Lambton has produced a diverse selection of crops over the last 200 hundred years. A variety of items have been grown in response to factors like susceptibility to cold and parasites. In 1851, the most prominent crop was wheat, with 279,989 bushels being produced compared to 79,955 bushels of oats. In 1901, however, as the price and shelf life of wheat decreased, farmers diversified their crops to increase economic and cultivation success. Oats were the most prominent crop, with 2,706,790 bushels recorded as being grown that year, while there were 1,051,880 bushels produced.

Sombra Cheese Factory – Thistle Rubber Type Works building seen from the south prior to 1913. This building now sits at the corner of St. Clair Parkway and South Street in Sombra Village. A barn raising – from the Sombra Museum Archival Collection. The Abraham Smith log cabin sits on the grounds of the Sombra Museum, seen here on an autumn day. It is one of the oldest buildings in all of Lambton County – from Sombra Museum files.

During the nineteenth century, many farmers started raising animals for profit. Previously, farmers usually kept a couple of animals on their farm as a source of food for their own family, but with the quickly growing meat and dairy industry, they decided to raise additional stock for more profit. In 1882, Lambton County shipped over 4,000 head of beef cattle and 7,000 sheep and lambs to Britain.

Sombra was famous for its cheese factory in the late 1800s. Farmers could make profit without travelling too far to get their products to market. In its first year, the factory produced 193,000 pounds (about 87543.26 kg) of cheese, with production led by head cheesemaker Dick Richmond and assistant George Wale! The Sombra Cheese Factory stood out on piers over the St. Clair River, and it operated from 1881 until 1904. It was converted to the Thistle Rubber Type Works in 1906. Becher (intersection of Lambton Line and Kimball Road) also had a cheese factory, with assistant cheesemaker Chris Wale of Sombra.

As the number of livestock in Lambton County grew, so did the need for barns to house the animals and crops. In earlier years, farms had smaller outbuildings or stables. As the farming industry grew, large barns constructed out of heavy wooden beams and cementblock walls were built all around the County. The community came together to support each other with barn raisings. This gathering of people working together created a strong bonds in the community. These barns are in various states of repair and are often inadequate for farm use today due to the size of modern farm equipment and changes to crop storage methods. However, dozens of the barns built back in the late 1800s and early 1900s are still standing today or are being lovingly restored.

A cheese shipping box that holds 3 rounds and a half bushel hamper – from the Sombra Museum Archival Collection. An advertisement for sugar beets by Jack Reynolds, showing pioneer farming techniques – from Sombra Museum files. Men with their horse team and buggy in front of a multi-barn farm, year unknown –from Sombra Museum files.

Agribusiness boomed, allowing farmers to replace the small log cabins on their property with larger frame homes that they could live in with their families, while still being able to work out on the farm whenever they wanted. A lot of these homes are also still standing today, including the old W. Auld Residence in Warwick and the former Graham residence in Dawn-Euphemia Township. Sombra Museum’s Abraham Smith log cabin, built c. 1830, is an example of a temporary home that was vacated and turned into a milk shed once the family built a larger, permanent home.

The former Sombra Township - named the Spanish word for ‘shade’ due to the dense oldgrowth forest covering the area when Europeans permanently settled here about 1820 – grew up from the logging trade to become a farming community, which it remains to this day. The presence of the St. Clair and Sydenham rivers (vital for transporting farm goods to market and receiving goods, such as plough blades, in return), another ‘crop’ of sorts contributed to the local harvest – ice.

During the months of January and February when the ice became 10”-12” thick, Sombra men would drive their sleighs equipped with saws, tongs, chisels, and hooks out on the river to cut large blocks of ice. Then, they were packed in sawdust. The ice was stored until summer when they were delivered to the local ice boxes to preserve food, add a refreshing chill to a pitcher of lemonade, or even to make ice cream for the church picnic. Sombra Village’s former icehouse – also Ansell’s Livery and Dray – is still standing in 2022, at the corner of Smith Street and Water Street.

Today, 80% of land in Lambton County is owned by farmers and Lambton farmers operate over 550,000 acres of farmland. Lambton County produces the largest volume of soybeans in Ontario and the second-largest volume of sugar beets and wheat. This is especially impressive for a small community that was only sparsely populated forest land only 170 years ago.

Visit Sombra Museum in 2023 to view the farming exhibit “Grit, Passion, Determination” and check in with @SombraMuseum on social media for updates on the highly anticipated 2024 barn calendar and related events.

Modern harvest equipment near Sombra, November 2021 – Photo credit Kailyn Shepley Mr. Ansell delivering a load of freshly cut ice blocks to the Sombra ice house, year unknown – from Sombra Museum files.

The Handkerchief: One person’s token of love is another person’s nose guard

It all starts with someone wearing a square cloth on the top of their head to keep out the burning rays of the sun. Another person sees this, and they think, “Could I use one of those for something?”

From the days of necessity to romance and practicality, handkerchiefs have been the best thing for humankind. Used for all parts of the body, from snotty noses, tokens of love, and to show one person’s prosperity.

Not many years ago you might have had a grandparent or uncle that used a handkerchief. The men for nasal constraint, women to keep the dirt off little children’s faces, a little spit and a handkerchief and you have a brand-new child.

I remember when I was a young girl of five, I received my first purse. It had a long handle and a rectangular bottom, and it was all vinyl. Inside the purse I found two things, some change and a handkerchief. It was bad luck to give a purse without money in it and the handkerchief, my very own. It was probably an old one, but it was so precious the Queen of England didn’t have a handkerchief as good as the one that lay inside my vinyl purse. In just a few short minutes I had become the most fashionable girl around.

Handkerchiefs were first noticed in the early BC years by Catullus, a poet by trade, who mentioned one when a person used it to wipe away sweat from their brow. Later in France the handkerchief became a fashion statement, wrapped around one’s neck keeping the sweat off your body, women wrapped them around their purse handle for a spot of free-flowing fashion. Sometimes men kept them in their hats or their front suit pocket and women in their cleavage. Enough said about where grandma kept her hanky.

If you are looking for a strange but true fact about the valuable cloth, let’s consider Queen Marie Antoinette, and her King, Louis XVI (of France). In 1784, Antoinette wanted her husband to make a law that handkerchiefs could only be square in shape, and her husband wanted none of them to be bigger than his handkerchief at 16 inches squared.

The second strange fact would be how the rich handkerchiefs were made of fine cloth, covered in lace, brilliant embroidery and even your initial stitched in the corner. These handkerchiefs were forbidden to go anywhere near your nose. You could wipe your nose with your sleeve or anything else, but not that handkerchief. Often the wealthy would take their fancy handkerchiefs to balls, parties, the theatre for some private talk to the men. Yes, ladies you could silently send messages to men with the delicate cloth! Never do this in a church (for that was a sin in God’s eyes) but most importantly your neighbours could see this happening and think quite badly of you.

A few messages were:

1.) Drawing it across the cheek - I love you

2.) Across the eyes – I am sorry

3.) Across the forehead – Look we are watched

4.) Through the hands – I dislike you

5.) Dropping it – We will be friends (I am unsure what kind of friend they mean)

6.) Folding it - I wish to speak with you.

I love the old movies, black and white and oh so over dramatized. Two men in armour are set to duel. One strides up on his horse to the beautiful lady in the gallery and she gives him her delicate handkerchief, then he gently places it on his helmet for good luck. Oh, how they swooned.

Along with spots in movies handkerchiefs became advertising pieces. Lithographed coloured pictures of movies, companies selling a product of whatever they could think. A lot of these colourful scraps became patches on clothing, worn upon your head to hide your curlers and even made into quilts.

Kleenex! We have all heard that word. Yes, this is the item that would change the life of a handkerchief. During the war, an invention was made to cover the soldiers face when the enemies released gas. The Kleenex would help keep the soldiers from toxic chemicals. Kleenex didn’t quite meet the job, but they did find it was great for taking off women’s makeup. With more testing Kleenex became the winner for blowing noses, cleaning sweat from your face and more. It was the sanitary way to go but, don’t shun the handkerchief people. There are many who prefer handkerchief to Kleenexes. I say go for It. As long as you are doing the laundry.

Trip to the Royal Winter Fair

Lambton County Archives Staff

In January 1940, Marjorie Clemens from Ravenswood School entered a student essay contest. Her poem recorded a memorable trip with the Junior Farmers to the Royal Winter Fair. It was included with essays and poems from other students in a publication by W.P. MacDonald, which can be found at the Lambton County Archives.

W.P MacDonald graduated from Ontario Agricultural College in 1915 and was the Agricultural Representative for Lambton County through until 1956. Lambton Heritage Museum has a virtual exhibit on MacDonald’s 2016 induction to the Lambton Agricultural Hall of Fame. Visit the virtual exhibit here,

There are some events recorded, And some that never are, The trip we made down to the Royal in history has no par. Then every Lambton boy and girl who rated at the fair, In speaking and exhibits too By bus was taken there.

W.P. MacDonald portrait W.P. MacDonald’s plaque of induction into the Lambton Agricultural Hall of Fame

Some of us left from Watford town A little after eight, And since it was our first bus ride Not one of us was late. There was a bus for all the boys, Another for the girls, And W.P. was rushed so much His hair fair stood in curls. But when at last he had us placed Our trip was well begun, And all the sights were fresh and new, And we were glad we’d come.

At London something happened – say I wonder could you guess? We had our picture taken there And saw it in the Press. By 12 o’clock we plain could see Toronto must be near, And that we might somehow be late, There was no cause to fear.

We had the finest chaperones, And they took every care, That each of us was sure to see The best things at the Fair. And we had pinned long ribbons on With “Lambton” lettered clear, So folks could tell from where we came We were quite vain I fear.

We viewed the cattle, pigs and sheep, Of every breed and size; We heard the judges tell just why They gave to some the prize. We saw the horses walk upstairs Like they were on the ground; And every kind of fowl I’m sure Could somewhere there be found.

And one show piggy ran away, He’d go first left then right, The owner shouted “Catch the pig” But we weren’t able quite.

The smartest [Birdie] ever seen Clucked there upon her nest, She said the [strangest] things to us Just how you’ve maybe guessed.

But I liked best the hero dogs, Just plain dogs like my own, And we were told the noble deeds Which each had done alone. For some had barked a quick alarm, And saved a friend from fire; They wagged their tails as though to say, “We aren’t for sale or hire”. And one had saved a little boy Who could not swim alone From drowning and the dog now had A medal of his own.

We saw the silky foxes judged They looked so quiet quite; But they had muzzles on so they Could neither snarl nor bite.

The faces of some sheep were hid With tiny little curls, Their “permanent” could easily be The envy of the girls.

For us the marionettes all danced In costumes of their land. We wondered how they fixed them so They moved at their command.

We watched the blind fold sew a seam, And knit like you or me; They were so certain what to do You’d think that they could see.

The potter with the potter’s wheel Turned out some vases rare; We felt if we could take one home We’d treasure it with care.

We saw a lady dying wool Like back in Grandma’s day, With dyes of berries, bark and roots, And she explained the way.

A word about the apples too –We just wished for a bite From one of those big juicy spies, But no one said we might.

When evening came, of course we all Were ready for the show; The great Colosseum filled us with Saw awe as you can’t know. The ladies came and took their place In fancy evening gowns; The men with long-tailed coats, high hats Along beside sat down. We watched the Nova Scotian girls and ponies in a drill; And when they had the horses jump It gave us all a thrill. The cattle with their ribbons on Were led around the ring, And all the strange and wondrous sights –I can’t tell everything.

It was the first for most of us

To sleep in a hotel; The really silly things we did It’s perhaps not best to tell.

But [morning] found us all astir, And ready to see more, We drove around, and we beheld The Eaton well-known store, The Robert Simpson building too, The mighty edifice where Our parliament is wont to meet And do its business there.

Another day spent at the Fair –I’ll tell you now of the flowers –I think right there I could have stayed For many many hours.

The paths between led here and there, And little fountains played, Such gorgeous roses bloomed, and we had felt we’d been repaid

If only we had made the trip and seen the flower show.

Such flowers of every colour, kind, Their names I do not know. The dearest little cottage stood, With roses over run.

And there we saw the bride and groom, Who smiled at all our fun. Attendants all were in their place In wedding-day attire, And we must needs all stop awhile The pretty scene admire.

But 4P.M. came all too soon, We should be on our way. And we were weary and I think we felt we’d had a day. We sang most every song we knew As homeward bound we sped I’m very sure we all were glad To see our home and bed.

And W.P. Macdonald may Throughout the coming years, Take many groups of girls and boys, And win applause and cheers. But we the group of “38” Alone the honour claimWe were the very first to go This fact we loud proclaim.

To W.P. Macdonald now Give credit, ‘tis his due; We gave a bunch of girls and boys A great time it is true. And perhaps when we have grown old, With silver in our hair, We’ll tell our songs and daughters of Our first trip to the fair. And we will not forget to name The man who planned it so, And W.P. Macdonald’s fame Will grow and grow and grow.

Lambton County Branch of The Ontario Genealogical Society (Ontario Ancestors)

The receipt of photos of a Fenian General Service Medal awarded to a Sarnia man, William John Gurd, for service in 1861 with the Sarnia Provisional Battalion triggered an article in the December issue of the Ontario Ancestors newsletter, Lambton Lifeline. Not content with this information about one part of his life, I began a timeline of his life to try to fill in the blanks. I knew that he served in Lambton but had died in London as that was where the medal was sent in February of 1900.

In the 1871 census, he was working as a bookkeeper in Sarnia. By the time of the 1881 census, he was working as an agent. An agent for whom? When the 1891 Canada Census was taken, he was living in London and involved in the manufacture of water meters. A directory for the City of London and Middlesex County identified the company as the Gurd Gas and Water Meter Co.

Two sources helped to flesh out his story. A search on unearthed the fact that he was an inventor as he had a five year patent (No. 36,341) on a meter for gas and fluids, registered 8 April 1891. He had a second patent for improvements on calculators for interests and time, registered 19 July 1880. The second source was his obituary in The Sarnia Daily Observer, 3 February 1903. It recorded that he had left his job as the manager of the Lambton Loan Co. so he could devote his time to the completion and manufacture of his own inventions.

Although William died in London, his body was returned to Sarnia and buried in Lakeview Cemetery. Had I not been curious about the rest of William John Hurd’s life, I would not have known that he was a successful inventor as well.

William John Gurd’s Death Notice in the February 3, 1903 edition of The Sarnia Daily Observer. William John Gurd’s Grave William John Gurd’s record of Fenian General Service Award

Upcoming Branch Presentations

All of these events are open to all OGS members and the general public.

30 January 2023 Drop-In Session 2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Contact Lambton County Branch at for the Zoom link to this session. These are unstructured webinars held the last Monday of each month except for December where members or guests can ask research questions or share successes in their Lambton County research for the benefit of others.

Drop-In & Chat - Zoom Webinar

January 30, 2023 – 2pm-3:30pm

February 27, 2023 – 2pm-3:30pm

March 27, 2023 – 2pm-3:30pm

We are bringing back the Drop-In Sessions for 2023. Working on your Lambton County Genealogy? Have questions? Meet with others to discuss obstacles or exciting new discoveries. You can register for all of the sessions in 2023 using the same link so make sure you star the confirmation of registration email that provides that link information to use each month. The sessions run the last Monday of each month except for December. For a link to the meeting email

14 February 2023 My Trip to Rathkeale, a webinar presentation by Donna Bjore who travelled to Ireland to research her Palatine ancestors in the Counties of Limerick, Kerry, Tipperary and Wexford. This is a webinar only, there is no in-person meeting due to the possibility of bad winter weather. Register for this webinar at this link: meeting/register/tZUkdOuuqjMqEtFytEOiwjDQUnftsfYRBLY9

February 14, 2023 – 7p.m. Lambton Branch, Ontario Ancestors Meeting

Speaker: Donna Bjore - “My 2022 Irish Palatine Trip-Never Give Up the Search”. ON-LINE ONLY. Register for Zoom Meeting at Meetings are free and open to the public – all welcome. For more information email

Visit the landing page of our Branch website at . There are a number of links to items that can be accessed by non-members. Our Members’ Resources section of the website contains all sorts of things from cemetery transcripts to digital images of family histories. One of the latest additions is an updated transcript for Hillsboro Cemetery, Plympton-Wyoming.

The Ontario Genealogical Society has moved away from a calendar year membership so if you join during the year, your renewal will occur at the same time the following year. Go to the Society’s webpage at if you wish to see what a membership offers.

Do you, as a heritage organization, want to reach out to more genealogists, historians and other members of heritage organizations when you are offering events and programs? Do make use of ads placed in The Ontario Genealogical Society e-weekly which comes out most Saturdays of the year. The deadline for submissions to the editor, Patti, at is the previous Wednesday. The eweekly is sent to 10, 042 subscribers. You can subscribe to the eweekly at

Heritage Sarnia-Lambton Members

Moore Museum

94 Moore Line, Mooretown, ON N0N 1M0


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Plympton-Wyoming Museum

6745 Camlachie Road, Camlachie, ON N0N 1E0

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Lambton Heritage Museum

10035 Museum Road, Grand Bend, ON N0M 1T0


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Oil Museum of Canada

2423 Kelly Road, Oil Springs, ON N0N 1P0


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Arkona Lions Museum and Information Centre

8685 Rock Glen Road, Arkona, ON N0M 1B0


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Sombra Museum

3476 St. Clair Parkway, Sombra, ON N0P 2H0


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Lambton County Archives

787 Broadway Street, Wyoming, ON N0N 1T0


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Forest-Lambton Museum

8 Main St. North, Forest, ON N0N 1J0

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Additional Contributors

The Ontario Genealogical Society, Lambton Branch

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