Wednesday 19 July 2017

Trevor's Pick - Week 3

This week's  member of the museum to pick a favourite artifact for Staff Pick Saturday is long-time volunteer, Trevor Stanton. Trevor is a very helpful member, as he works hard to help with cataloguing items into the museum's collection. As a result, he has worked first-hand with many of the fascinating objects in the museum. When asked about his favourite artifact in the museum's collection, Trevor named the Star Inn.

This heritage building, built in the 1840's, is a wonder all on its own. The Star Inn is the only building standing in its original location - at the crossroads of Dunvegan. All other heritage buildings have been relocated (some disassembled log by log) from around Glengarry County and settled on the museum's property. First, the building was a home to settlers. Then, it became a general store - an integral part of a pioneer village. After its use as a store, it became a hotel called the Star Inn. The Star Inn was busy, as was the rest of Dunvegan, in the middle to late eighteen hundreds. The hamlet was a popular stagecoach stop between Ottawa and Montreal. Moving by horse and buggy was slow, so many small hamlets and towns in Glengarry were home to hotels for travelers. The museum was last owned in the 19th century by Donald MacMillan, whose descendant donated the building to the Glengarry Historical Society. The Glengarry Pioneer Museum opened in 1962, 55 years ago, with this sole building.

The main floor includes a kitchen, a parlour, and a barroom. Like today, the kitchen was the heart of the home, always busy with work. The variety of household tools provides a hint of the action that took place here. Cooking, cleaning, churning butter, hauling water, making candles, preserves, washing clothes and more. Food must have always been cooking. The large dough box in the corner would have been used almost every day. There once was a summer kitchen attached to the Star Inn so that cooking and baking would not overheat the entire building. The parlour is home to a beautiful pump organ which could be used to entertain guests. The bar is believed to be one of the oldest in Eastern Ontario.  Only men were allowed in the bar, and they were not allowed to serve on Sunday.  The bar is still licensed and used for special events (even the odd Sunday). On the top floor, there are two private bedrooms for guests, the innkeepers' room attached to a children's room, and a common room. The common room was very versatile: it was used for church services, various gatherings, and sometimes the floor was slept on by travelers for a reduced rate.

Over the half century that the museum has been interpreting this building there have been multiple reports of spirits in this building. Several Curators over the years have had visitors report a very similar story of a stern woman "spirit" upstairs at the Inn. One such individual who gave this report absolutely refused to go upstairs and was visibly disturbed by her encounter.
The Star Inn is home to many interesting artifacts including a dumb stove, an alcohol proofing kit, and a small melodian (type of pump organ). With its original windows and doors, ghostly rumours, and interesting history, it is a must-see when visiting the Glengarry Pioneer Museum. With this rich history and multitude of artifacts within, it is no wonder the Star Inn is Trevor Stanton's favorite artifact.

Friday 7 July 2017

Jennifer's Pick - Week 2

Hello and welcome to Staff Picks Saturdays! The staff member in the spotlight today is the museum's Curator and Administrator, Jennifer Black. Jennifer has gotten to know the heritage buildings and artifacts quite well over the years; she claims that every item is unique and she cannot single out a favourite artifact. She wanted to share two items that she is partial to, as they are both odd and interesting with a great deal of history behind them. The artifacts Jennifer selected for Staff Picks Saturdays are pictured below: A carved pipe and a coffin plate.

As you can see, the meticulously hand-carved pipe (seen below) is no ordinary pipe. This pipe is unique in that it has been delicately manipulated into the shape of a man's head. The pipe is made of meerschaum, also known as sepiolite, which is a mineral found in sea-foam from the Black Sea. Meershaum is porous and easy to carve; great for intricate pipes like this one.  This particular pipe was donated to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum in 2009 by Glen McKenzie of Manitoba. The pipe belonged to his ancestor, James Roderick McKenzie who lived on the 9th of Kenyon. McKenzie was a very busy man - he was a postmaster at Skye, a deacon at the local Dunvegan Presbyterian church, a farm-owner, and a school teacher. On top of that, he was also a clerk of the division court and an elder at the Presbyterian Church for almost 50 years. Interestingly, J.R. McKenzie's great aunt was the historic Scottish figure named Flora Macdonald.  Flora Macdonald was the heroic individual who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape after defeating Jacobitism in 1745. Flora and Bonnie Prince Charlie are known for their brave and noble devotion to the Stuart cause; their clever schemes included hiding Prince Charlie in rocks and disguising him as an irish spinning maid! With this item's rich history, it is no wonder why it is one of Jennifer's favourite artifacts.

Jennifer's second pick is called a coffin plate. Coffin plates were made of various metals, including silver if a family could afford it. This item would be fastened to a coffin and would sometimes be removed and given to the family before burial. Coffin plates, also called death plates, may have included decorations, names, ages, dates, and/or loving and endearing inscriptions. This coffin plate carries a tragic and shocking story with it. On June 29, 1895, 53-year old James Denovan of Dalkeith was spending the day with many members of the Glengarry community at a barn-raising bee for John R. McLeod.  Unfortunately, James Denovan died in a shocking and public manner when a beam struck him in the head and killed him. The community mourned deeply. The obituary in the Eastern Ontario Review on July 5, 1895 states that "it is safe to say that nothing happened in the neighbourhood of Dalkeith within the memory of any one living there at present that had such a sad effect on the
whole community. The funeral... was the largest seen in Eastern Ontario for years. There were fully 175 carriages at the house."

His coffin plate, along with the boots he was wearing when he died, were donated to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum to commemorate James Denovan and to preserve even the saddest parts of Glengarry's history.

In memory of James Denovan (1841-1895)

Saturday 1 July 2017

Christina's Pick - Week 1

Welcome to the first blog post of the Glengarry Pioneer Museum's newest blog - Staff Picks Saturday. My name is Christina Quesnel, and I am a summer student working as a collections and research assistant here in Dunvegan. Throughout the first few weeks I have been working at the museum, I have come across some artifacts that are intriguing, thought-provoking, or just downright weird. My personal favourite so far is a definite oddity: A Hair Wreath.

If you do not know what a hair wreath is, you and I were in the same position. To my surprise, it is quite literally a wreath made out of human hair. Although this might seem like a slightly obscure item in the 21st century, it was a common way to show respect, support, and condolences to lost loved ones. Hair was removed from brushes every night and was kept in a hair receiver (seen below). Although they are usually made of porcelain, the hair receiver showcased at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum is made of wood. Nevertheless, once a sufficient amount of hair was stuffed into the hair receiver through the hole on the cover, the hair was used in a variety of ways. Pioneers did not waste anything - not even fallen hair. They stuffed pillows and seats, and also handcrafted intricate floral designs. The delicate flowers were woven into a horseshoe shape, open upwards, as a gesture to the Heavens. Oftentimes, a picture or flower containing the passed relatives hair would be placed in the center as a gesture of remembrance.

This particular wreath was donated to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum by Hugh Lothian in 1963. In addition to the detailed flowers containing both brunette and blond hair, there are some bead embellishments attached throughout the piece. The hair wreath is contained in a wooden box frame with a glass cover. With the exceptionally meticulous work put into this piece, I cannot help to stop and gaze at this wreath every time I enter the Star Inn. Come take a look for yourself!

(Hair Receiver)