Wednesday 26 July 2023

A Glimpse of Early Glengarry; the Glengarry Artists' Collective Exhibit Vernissage

The Glengarry Pioneer Museum is gearing up to welcome local art enthusiasts to the vernissage of the Glengarry Artists' Collective's latest exhibit, on Saturday, July 29th.Visitors from far and wide will soon have the chance to marvel at recent art work made by local Glengarry artists on display from July 29th-August 13th inside the Big Beaver Schoolhouse on the museum's grounds. 

The Glengarry Pioneer Museum itself preserves art that captures the natural beauty of the Glengarry landscape in our artefact collection. In fact, early features of the village of Dunvegan and other nearby communities can be spotted in a number of these pieces as they would have once appeared to the pioneer inhabitants of this area. 

Scenes depicted in the oil paintings of Dunvegan artist and first curator of the Glengarry Pioneer Museum, Christina Ferguson (1897-1980), provide a rare peak into what the village of Dunvegan would have looked like between the late 19th century and mid 20th century. Although many of the buildings that Ferguson documented underwent decades of alterations by the time her pieces were created in the 1960's and 70's, Ferguson captured the likeness of the original structures using oral histories and photographs of the buildings as they originally stood from the museum's collection and from members of the local community. Imagine yourself stepping into scenes of old Glengarry as envisioned by Ferguson and other Glengarry artists of the past while you peer through a selection of these paintings below.

Christina Ferguson (b. 1897, d. 1980). The MacRae Hotel in Dunvegan. Object ID: 1985-003-018.

This unframed, oil painting portrays the MacRae Hotel on the south-west corner of the Dunvegan village crossroads. The red brick, two and a half story building was constructed around the turn of the century and was used as a hotel, later a garage and gas station, then a private residence as it remains today. This painting reveals how the original outbuildings on either side of the hotel may have appeared. It also shows a covered verandah and the two-story west wing which no longer exists. For a brief period in the 1960s, the hotel's café even served as a hippy hangout spot and place for musical performances! In fact, the café patrons' role in the village's contentious political climate at the time was documented in a 1974 episode of the CBC's Take 30, called "Crossroads at Dunvegan & Coffee House" with Mary Lou Finley. The donor of this painting is Edith Ferguson, sister of Christina Ferguson, who donated the painting to the museum in 1985.

Catherine McEwen. Titled "Barn at the Museum". Object ID: 1986-010-001.

The framed, oil painting titled "Barn at the Museum" depicts the Campbell Barn which is presently situated on the grounds of the Glengarry Pioneer Museum south of the Star Inn. This work was painting by Catherine McEwen and donated to the museum in 1986. The piece highlights the Glengarry landscape in which the barn originally stood, surrounded by a wooden fence, tree lines and sprawling pastures on a clear sunny day. 

Christina Ferguson (b. 1897, d. 1980). The D.K. McLeod store in Dunvegan. Object ID: 2011-006-001. 
This framed, oil painting by Christina Ferguson reveals how the D.K. McLeod store once appeared on the north-east corner of the Dunvegan village crossroads. The building was once the original post office and general store of Dunvegan, serving the pioneer inhabitants of the village throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries. The building is covered log, built in the mid 19th century. It was eventually converted into a private residence. 

Christina Ferguson (b. 1897, d. 1980).  J.A. Stewart's blacksmith shop in Dunvegan (1973). Object ID: 1985-003-019.

This framed oil painting captures J.A. Stewart's blacksmith shop, the original blacksmith shop of Dunvegan which stood on the south-east corner of the village crossroads until it was demolished after J.A. Stewart's passing in 1954. This piece was painted by Ferguson in 1973 and later donated to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum by her sister, Edith Ferguson in 1985 along with other works. The scene shows the original wood blacksmith shop in the center, and the Star Inn to the right as it would have appeared in the mid to late 19th century. The Star Inn remains in its original location today on the museum grounds, and the original site of the J.A. Stewart blacksmith shop can found to the east of the nearby Heritage Gardens. 

We look forward to welcoming the Glengarry Artist's Collective and local art enthusiasts alike to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum over the two weeks of their show. While you're here to take in the exhibit, we invite you to explore the museum grounds and country lanes around the village of Dunvegan, where you may stumble upon some of the scenes depicted in Ferguson's paintings and others housed in the museum's collection. 

We hope to see you soon!

Thursday 13 July 2023

Shakespeare comes to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum

Calling all Shakespeare fans! Preparations at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum are fast underway for A Company of Fools' upcoming performance of Hamlet on the evening of Thursday, July 27th. Don't miss your chance to witness this Shakespeare classic come to life, accompanied with drinks and deserts amidst the picturesque setting of the Glengarry Pioneer Museum's grounds. 

Photo of a theatre group taken by Duncan Donovan in Alexandria, c. 1920. Object ID: 2010-000-016. 

Upon your visit, we invite you to peak into the lives of actors and entertainers from Glengarry's past, and ponder artefacts related to the performance arts housed in our collection. This black and white studio photo for instance, depicted above, portrays what is believed to have been a theatre group in Alexandria sometime in the first quarter of the 20th century. Thirteen actors are captured wearing various costumes representing common professions or pastimes of the era. The actors appear from left to right as a golfer, a kilted woman, a seated lady in a black satin dress, a baker, a gentleman, a rower in boating attire, a woman in military dress, a priest, a nurse, a graduate in cap and gown, a seated woman holding a paper scroll, and a lady wearing a white dress and large hat holding a parasol. One can only imagine the creativity, fun and laughter that this group may have provided to audiences in Alexandria and surrounding areas around the turn of the century! 

This photo was taken by photographer Duncan Donovan in his Main St, Alexandria studio. This photo belongs to a collection of retrieved glass plate negative photographs taken by Donovan spanning the years 1896 to 1924. Several of these photographic prints are currently on exhibition in the Loyal Orange Lodge of the Glengarry Pioneer Museum, thanks to the work of the late, local historian, Dane Lanken and others.

Photo of the 33rd edition of Glengarry Life magazine, published in 1994. REF 2009-000-110.

During his time as a member of the Glengarry Historical Society, Lanken wrote several articles for Glengarry Life magazine pertaining to the local history of Glengarry County, some of which chronicling the fascinating life stories of early actors and entertainers who lived and performed in the Glengarry area. One such actor, whose story was featured in the 33rd issue of Glengarry Life in 1994 depicted in the photo above, is Rupert Mar. Mar was a well-educated stage performer who was said to have farmed in the Munroes Mills area from 1908-1915. Lanken uses the accounts of Dr. Royce MacGillivray, an Alexandria native and professor of History from the University of Waterloo, and Marion MacRae's retelling of her mother's recollections of life at Munroes Mills in the early 20th century to recount his story. 

Lanken describes that after failing to find fame on the London stage, Mar traveled with his wife, son and daughter to Canada where he purportedly participated in Sir Henry Irving's last company tour of North America in 1904. Eventually, Mar purchased a farm on the 7th Concession of Charlottenburg and worked in the Munroes Mills area, where he received much more praise for his solo performances rather than the quality of his work among the farm hands there. Aside from acting, Mar developed an excellent local reputation for his singing talents with his habit of singing in his back yard after his farm work had been completed in the evenings. He soon became a highly sought after act as an actor, singer and poet at every concert and neighborhood social in the Munroes Mills area. Mar brought his act back to Britain following the outbreak of WW1 when he was drafted into a concert group that performed Red Cross concerts for troops in England. Upon his return to the Munroes Mills area in 1918, he continued to perform there and in the Williamstown area until his passing soon after. Rupert Mar was long thereafter remembered at Munroes Mills for contributing to Glengarry County's legacy as a center of local music and entertainment.  

We look forward to welcoming A Company of Fools and all local Shakespeare fans to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum for the performance of Hamlet that is fast approaching on July, 27th at 7:00 pm. Drinks and deserts will be available onsite, or a boxed picnic by reservation. We hope to see you soon!

Thursday 6 July 2023

Summer Blooms of the Glengarry Pioneer Museum's Heritage Gardens

Photo of the St. Andrew’s Cross Garden, July 2023.

Patrons who have recently paid a visit to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum over the past few weeks may have spotted two brand-new additions to the museum’s grounds. Thanks to the fundraising efforts of the Maxville Horticultural Society, leadership of Glengarry Pioneer Museum volunteer and gardener, Allison Hall, and a handful of others, one new interpretive garden signs and one reprinted garden sign have been installed at two of the museum’s Heritage Gardens. These signs will introduce visitors to the flowers and many different medicinal and culinary plants and herbs that grow in the Rose Garden, located south of the Loyal Orange Lodge, and the St. Andrew’s Cross Garden, located north of the Star Inn near the Dunvegan village crossroads.

This photo of the Star Inn depicts the current location of the St. Andrew’s Cross Garden as it would have appeared in the late 1980s. Object ID: 2011-000-071.

The diverse variety of the herbs and plants that can be found in the museum’s Heritage Gardens have either been donated by families living in the Glengarry area, or they have been obtained from heritage plant sources such as Upper Canada Village and other suppliers. Many pioneer households would have grown an array of plants and herbs in areas that were easily accessible to the kitchens, or summer kitchens, of the family residence. Plants and herbs were not only widely used for culinary purposes, but also for their dyeing and medicinal properties when access to healthcare or physicians would have been rare for those who lived in rural communities like the early inhabitants of the Glengarry area. 

Chamomile in bloom in the St. Andrew’s Cross Garden in July 2023.

One such plant that is currently in bloom in the St. Andrew’s Cross Garden and featured on the garden’s new interpretive sign is Chamomile. This plant, also known by its botanical name, Chamaemelum Nobile, would have been routinely used by pioneers in the Glengarry area for medicinal purposes. Chamomile is a member of the daisy family, known as Compositae, and has its origins in Europe and North America where it is grown wild and cultivated in sunny and well-drained sites. Its white flowers contain an aromatic oil that were at one time used for both their anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. For instance, a tea could be made by steeping the flower’s petals to soothe the stomach, however the flower itself would have been used as a topical antiseptic as well.

Photograph of Growing Herbs and Plants for Dyeing (1977) by Betty E. M. Jacobs and Illustrator Kathleen Gough for the Glengarry Pioneer Museum’s reference library. Object ID: 2009-000-191.

Among other plants and herbs featured in our Heritage Gardens, Chamomile would have also been used as a natural textile dye by pioneers in the Glengarry area. Betty E. M. Jacobs details dyeing instructions that approximate the textile dyeing processes pioneers may well have implemented in Growing Herbs and Plants for Dyeing (1977) from the Glengarry Pioneer Museum’s reference book collection. This source reveals how Chamomile was commonly used to dye textiles with pigments from the plants’ flower petals, which would have been an accessible source of pigment to 19th century pioneers.

Dyer’s Chamomile, also known as Golden Marguerite and Oxeye Chamomile, is a Chamomile cousin of the variety grown at the museum by the botanical name of Anthemis Tinctoria. Unlike the white flowers of its cousin’s variety, this plant produces golden-yellow, daisy like flowers that bloom from stiff stems between late summer and early fall. Pioneers would have harvested this Chamomile variety while it was in full bloom to make use of their golden-yellow flower petals as a natural dye for wool in either dried of fresh form. The dye would have been combined with a mordant to fix the pigment in the wool textile. A mordant of alum would produce a yellow/buff colour, a chrome mordant would produce a golden/orange colour and a tin mordant would produce a clear yellow colour.

Photo of the new interpretive St. Andrew's Cross Garden sign north of the Star Inn (above), and the reprinted Rose Garden sign south of the Loyal Orange Lodge (right) from July, 2023.

During your next visit, the Glengarry Pioneer Museum invites you to enjoy the summer blooms of the St. Andrew’s Cross Garden, and to learn about the countless culinary, medicinal, and dyeing uses of all the plants and herbs growing in our Heritage Gardens with our new interpretive garden signs. Special thanks to the Maxville Horticultural Society for their donation towards this project, and to Glengarry Pioneer Museum volunteer and gardener, Allison Hall, whose garden knowledge, and leadership brought our garden signs to life.