Grey County Heritage:
A Valuable Resource 

Grey County Heritage: A Valuable Resource which is rich and varied, as an important resource for future use for business, political, and many other purposes.


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The Great Lakes Raconteur

This spring and early summer, there's a whole lot of "digging" going on this region. 

The Canadian Friends of John Muir have just completed an archeological dig in the Meaford area. They were trying to find more information about the famous naturalist's life in that region of Grey County. 

john muirJohn Muir: A One-Time Grey County Resident - Paul White Historic Photograph Collection

Tomorrow, the Old Durham Road Pioneer Cemetery committee will begin a project to recover the tombstones of some of the first African American settlers in the Priceville area. 

Next week, another archeological project begins near the grave site of Catherine Sutton to try and uncover more information about the famous native princess. These projects generally involve a search to uncover lost or unknown information and improve our knowledge of Grey County's heritage. 

However, in Durham there is another site of historical "digging." Only, here the aim is to preserve historical documents that are already known to exist, but at present are not readily available to researchers.

The Durham project is spearheaded by the Grey County Historical Society, but there are many other groups and individuals involved. The aim is to create a county-wide archives which will serve as a repository of information about Grey County heritage. 

Such an archive has long been the dream of members of the historical society. But others have since joined in the pursuit of this ambition. To co-ordinate the project a new organization called the Grey County Heritage Alliance was formed, which along with the historical society includes such groups as the Bruce Grey Genealogical Society and the Women's Institute. Other organizations have been invited to send delegates to alliance meetings and so far, the response has been positive. The project has been largely funded by fund-raising and private donations. 

There is a sense of urgency among many members of the group to get the archives functional. And one reason is the restructuring of local governments in the area. Many historians fear that in the rush to create new government structures in the new communities, the records of the former communities may inadvertently be lost or destroyed. 

Although the current archival repository in Durham is relatively new, and not yet totally functional, the committee has managed to gather a large base of documents, mostly from private individuals and organizations. Unfortunately, much of what has been gathered has not been as yet catalogued. Among the holdings in the archives there is a large number of newspapers from local communities. While most researchers are used to reading old newspapers on microfilm or microfiche, the copies of the newspapers in the archives are original newspapers. They include almost a century of the Markdale Standard, eight decades of the Durham Review, the Durham Chronicle, and smaller numbers of newspapers from communities such as Chatsworth whose issues are from the 1920s. 

There are also documents from area chapters of the Women's Institutes, some of which have folded, and these papers are a valuable link to Grey County's heritage. As well, the archives has the personal papers of several individuals. The alliance hopes to have the archives fully functional by 2001. 

The history of our region is rich and varied. It can be an important resource in the future. Therefore, it is great to see so many organizations, most of whom depend upon the resources and the enthusiasm of their members and others to continue the quest to uncover and maintain this potentially rich resource. Perhaps Rodger Renton, the president of the Grey County Heritage Alliance said it best: "We look after our water, we should look after this resource." 

A version of "Grey County Heritage: A Valuable Resource," originally appeared in my Local History column in the June 18, 1997, edition of the Owen Sound Sun Times.

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More Grey County Pages

12-year-old Walks to Owen Sound in 1851 from the journal of a teenage boy's experience travelling with his brother in the untamed Upper Canadian wilderness.

1st Grey County Building in 1852 was only built after many hurdles were overcame.

Dr. Anna Henry  from Markdale, was a medical trailblazer for women doctors in Canada, who helped lay the groundwork for the establishment for Women's College Hospital.

Egremont Township endured the usual growing pains of a pioneer community, but its early history records times when it was embroiled in a few contentious issues. 

Euphrasia Township in the early years when spelling the name was a problem for those who called it home and those that wanted settle this new Grey County township.

Georgian Bay's 1st pioneer settler arrived on the western shoreline long before any other settler reached the area.

Grey County Heritage: A Valuable Resource which is rich and varied, as an important resource for future use for business, political, and many other purposes.

Grey County's Creation in 1852, laid the framework for organizing a county in the last wilderness in the southern region of what would become in the future the province of Ontario.

An Unlikely Hero From Grey County (Part 1) found his way from the farming community of Flesherton to missionary work in the Ottawa Valley, and beyond.

An Unlikely Hero Vs. The KKK (Part 2) Our hero from Grey County took his missionary zeal south of the border and ultimately crossed paths with the infamous KKK!

Barn Raising: A Pioneer Economic and Social Necessity as it provided settlers with an opportunity not only to build a barn, but also build a community.

"Barring Out": A Pioneer School Tradition was a custom which the settlers brought to the new world from England, or Scotland.

Ceylon Ontario: How it Got its Name: It is always interesting how a community got its name, but I doubt any place received its name from a more unique source!

Chatsworth Ontario: First Settlers took advantage of fulfilling the needs of pioneer travellers and built a thriving community in the Upper Canadian wilderness.

Clearing Trees a Daunting Task for Settlers as they worked to fulfill their obligations for their land grant.

Dornoch: or is it Smithville? Originally it was Smithville, then it became Dornoch. But, surprise it is still, in reality Smithville!

First Pioneer in Durham: Archibald Hunter established his family, and a hotel, in what would become the centre of the town of Durham.

Durham Ontario Influenced by the Saugeen River. This river provided a means to create new industries, but especially in the spring it can also pose a menace to the community.

Grey County Bylaws to the 1890s reveal a lot about the financing of local government, especially education in the early days of the region.

John Muir, the legendary naturalist, who promoted the idea of protected nature spaces, spent time in Ontario and I went to help find evidence of his stay in the Owen Sound area.

A Heroic Woman From Grey County who made great changes as a doctor in China in the 1890s and early 1900s.

Jesse James: In Grey County? An interesting question. Did the notorious gangster hide out in Proton Township? We will never know. But it is fun to speculate!

Kilsyth's Train Engine was one for the history books. It brought an evening of joy followed by disappointing news soon after.

The Knight's of Meaford have long history in that Grey County community. Their business forged by early settlers employed many locals and supported the economy.

Leith: Tom Thomson's Birthplace is part of the rich heritage of this community located on the east shore of the Georgian Bay north of Owen Sound.

The Leith Golf Course has provided many families with great memories. The history of this golf course starts, and ends, with the generosity of one family.

Agnes Macphail was a political trailblazer in a part of Ontario that one could hardly expect such radical action for the era in a rural region.

Markdale Ontario: The Beginning: originally known as Glenelg East, but the coming of the railway and the name of owner of the land for the station led to a change of identity.

Meaford's history is one of hardy and entrepreneurial pioneers carving their lives out of the wilderness of what would become Grey County.

Meaford Ontario, first called Peggy's Landing located on the shores of Georgian Bay has a rich history.

Meaford vs Purdytown. Conflict over the name of a new community was not unusual in early Grey County but electing a school trustee was the "hot button" issue in this rivalry.

Pioneer Clergyman: John Neelands was the first to minister to the first settlers' spiritual needs riding on horseback through the wilds of early Grey County.

Pioneer Doctor: Dr. James Smith, a local boy who became a doctor and served his community for his entire life was a testament to Grey County community spirit.

Pioneer Healthcare in Grey and Bruce counties was not administered by doctors, nurses, or pharmacists, no it was the responsibility of the women of the community.

Pioneer Homes in Grey County in the 1840s offered only basic amenities. Homes were basic because clearing the land to earn a living to survive were of paramount importance for those embarking on a new life.

Pioneer Ingenuity created many labour saving devices and methods and quite often helped to create a sense of community.

Pioneer Christmas: A Family Tradition as told to me by may grandparents who experienced Christmas as children in the 1880s and 1890s.

Pioneer Settlement Plans for Grey County began almost two decades before the rest of Grey County was available for settlement.

A pioneer road surveyor's impact on the local history of Grey and Bruce counties could have been dramatic, if it had not been changed by another surveyor.

Pioneer Teachers in Grey and Bruce Counties had a long and arduous task, not to mentions strict and confining job requirements for very little salary.

Plowing Match in Grey County in 1933 the first International Plowing Match held in Grey and Bruce counties and it's success led to more such events in Grey.

Settling Osprey Township: Parts of Osprey were considered too rugged to settle, but today they are prime real estate because of the great view!

Swamp College: Proton Township: this colourfully named institution of education in Grey County has provided many stories to the heritage of the region.

Sydenham Township's First Council undertook the often difficult task of creating a new municipal infrastructure.

The Impact of Snow is not what is Used to be! As snow removal equipment has improved the impact of snow on our lives has reduced significantly from previous eras.

Unique Characters: Nathaniel Herriman lived in Grey County and owned an inn to provide food and and accommodation to early travellers. Each day he performed a unique practice.

Unique Maps: Quilts Guided the Underground Railroad to enable runaway slaves to escape to Canada and freedom from the shackles that enslaved them.

The Women's Institute is a group of rural women that has made a difference to the quality of both urban and rural life in Grey County and across the country.