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Successful history weekend may repeat itself next year

barnsThe most recognizable and dominant agricultural artifact – the barn – was featured in the opening presentation of the first Two Days About Yesterday celebration of history and heritage.

More than 60 people attended Ernie Margetson’s talk at the celebration’s home base at the Wellington arena. Margetson was born in the County and raised on a family farm. He has formal education in engineering and architectural, and much practical experience in the County.

“This is not so much a lament for the loss of barns, but for a way of life and a lot of what Prince Edward County and its agricultural heritage represents,” said Margetson.

The presentation, he noted, was designed to honour the farmers and carpenter builders of the last couple of centuries who perservered and worked hard to establish their farms.

“The barns that were built, not only in Prince Edward County, but throughout southern Ontario and Upper Canada, rank with the world,” said Margetson. “They were designed by men who didn’t know they were designers, but who understood intuitively, the kind of structure that would be needed, and they knew how to build it.”

The barns in his presentation showed little change over four centuries.

“Additions and renovations were carried out as the need arose and materials that were close at hand were utilized. In the last 50 years, technology, the oil age and progress, have brought profound change to farming and the barns that were so common, are now disappearing.”

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Following the presentation, guests were able to chat with 20 exhibitors with interests in history, including Architectural Conservancy of Ontario; local archives, architects, heritage centres, societies, the PEC Museums, UELs and the heritage advisory committee.

Krista Richardson, who has been with the County of Prince Edward Public Library and Archives for the past eight years, spoke about “Three S’s: Scandals, Sickness and Slavery with a focus on the portrayal of women and elopement, sicknesses such as Cholera, Typhoid Fever and other causes of death she shared from articles and editorials within the Hallowell Free Press newspaper from 1831-1834.

Ian Robertson expanded on articles he wrote over the past decade for County Magazine, during the afternoon presentation. He also shared anecdotes and images from his book ‘Camp Picton: Wartime to Peacetime’ which focuses on the No. 31 Bombing and Gunnery School, RAF Picton and the purpose it served during, and after the war.

Off-site activities included a presentation by Marc Seguin, author of ‘For Want of a Lighthouse’, at the Mariners’ Museum in South Bay. Seguin is involved with local heritage groups and is the founder of the lighthouse preservation organization ‘Save Our Lighthouses’.

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Sunday’s events included a tour of historic Camp Picton, the last RAF training camp of its kind in Canada with most of its structures still intact. Those on the tour visited some of the barracks, hangers and other buildings and learned how they were used during the Second World War.

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Sunday afternoon, history came alive as Capt. John Pepper Downes (Don Roberts) led a spirit walk through the historic Glenwood Cemetery in Picton.

For 20 years, Pepper Downes was clerk of the County court. He is better remembered for the fine home he built in Picton in 1858 that he and wife Eliza named Grove Place. Later it became known as The House of Falconer.

“In the City of the Dead you will observe we are much like any community,” said Roberts, as Pepper Downes. “You’ll notice our street signs and various neighbourhoods. Here there is prime real estate, with commanding views, where prominent residents of Picton and Prince Edward, rest with their families.”

Costumed actresses acted out profiles written by Margaret Haylock Capon highlighting achievements of 11 women of distinction who are buried there.

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Temperance pioneer Letitia Youmans was portrayed by Carol Quinn. Celine Papizewska was Ekaterina Pushkin

 

Vocalists Julian Gallo (Wally Williamson), Lennie Stewart, Carol Quinn, Celine Papizewska and fiddler Luke Norton sang and performed songs celebrating the spirit and determination.

Arlene Wright portrayed Jeanne Minhinnick, a recipient of the Order of Canada; Sandra Latchford was Cecilia Folkard, winner of the Dow Award for Heroism. Dora Prinzen was portrayed by Helma Oonk who told the story of a Dutch farm wife who hid seven airmen from the Germans during the Second World War. Eleanor Lindsay MacDonald was Mary Dunkley, an early educator who taught at Picton’s Mary Street School for more than 40 years.  Glady Williamson played Sarah Minetta Walt who gave the $2,000 bequest that started the fund drive for Picton’s first hospital

Also featured were Cora Colden (Sandra Dowds), an early Glenwood superintendent and Canada’s first female cemeterian; columnist Carrie Cross Carter (Carol Cooper Gorman and Gillian Gorman) who wrote about Picton in the early 1900s and temperance pioneer Letitia Youmans was portrayed by Carol Quinn. Papizewska was Ekaterina Pushkin, who fled the Russian Revolution and Stewart was Anne Merrill, a First World War correspondent. Her sister Helen Merrill, poet, naturalist and keeper of records, was portrayed by Judith Zelmanovits. Sandra Foreman was First World War army nurse Mabel Foster.

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Sandra Dowds playing Cora Colden, Canada’s first female cemeterian

 

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Eleanor Lindsay MacDonald was Mary Dunkley, an early educator who taught at Picton’s Mary Street School for more than 40 years.

 

Steve Ferguson, President of the Prince Edward County Historical Society, was thrilled with the response to the Two Days About Yesterday weekend. So much so, history weekend may repeat itself.

“It exceeded expectations in every possible way,” said Ferguson, noting a great response from both the public and the exhibitors. “I’m thrilled. We got people talking; people were engaged, they were happy, so why not do it again?”

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