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Cottage Shack Articles: Co-Op A Novel Idea, A Local Beef Ring – Nov. 26, 2021

To read the original article and others in this series visit the Cottage Shack magazine

Being curator at the Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM) requires me to learn all I can about our wide variety of artifacts and buildings.

The Woodrow log house is the only building on site. Though a few of the outbuildings have been built by volunteers, most are genuine originals donated by former owners from off-site and reconstructed here. Some came with many fixtures, tools and furnishings, authentic to the structures; they serve to further the credibility of the museum’s representation of a particular feature of earlier rural life.

All my previous articles have been related to fashion. This entire is vastly different as I have chosen to write here about what I feel is our most interesting building on site – The Eady slaughterhouse. Our guests either find it very intriguing or a little unsettling – sometimes both. During a tour, when we describe and explain the reasons for such things as a blood trough, bleeding our and butchering, a visitor’s attention soon becomes focused on the true purpose of the operation that was once performed here.

Doug Binns, one of our volunteers has researched this building extensively and written an article published in an issue of the Coldwater Current newspaper titled “Fresh Meat – What a Luxury.”

In today’s world we think nothing of going to the supermarket to purchase fresh beef, pork or poultry for our dinner table. But in the 180s and early 1900s, the lack of fresh meat was a real concern. Area farmers generally did not lack animals as sources of protein for their families, it preserving large quantities of meat certainly was a challenge. Thus, the emergence of the beef ring.

In the Medonte/Coldwater area around 1904, Mr. Sam Dunlop came up with the original co-operative idea. Most visitors to CCHM are surprised to learn that co-ops were around at the turn of the last century – not a more modern concept. Mr. Dunlop gathered together 25 families to form the original group. A slaughterhouse was constructed on the Russell farm on the 10th line of Medonte just north of the Village of Eady.

Each shareholder family was, in turn, required to deliver an animal to the slaughterhouse between 4:00 and 6:00 p.m. of their designated day to be slaughtered the next day by the resident butcher, Mr. Scarlett. This process happened regularly very 2 to 3 weeks. Once the animal was slaughtered, hung to bleed out and butchered, the meat was then wrapped in brown paper and the package was tied with a string. The family whose animal was processed received the best cuts of meat – juicy steaks and choice roasts as opposed to boiling beef. Packaged meats were placed in labelled boxes attached to the walls of the slaughterhouse, each co-op member having a numbered box. The butcher would then let the members know that their meats were ready for pick up. If a family did not eat the meat promptly, they would often preserve it with brine.

Beef rings grew in popularity as they were a very efficient way to ensure that fresh meat was always available. The Eady beef ring grew in size at one point to 35 members. Here are the names of some local families that were recorded as members: Dunlop, Johnston, Walker, Hawke, Ball, Kent, Wilson, McFarland, Merced, Bell, Graham, Blaney, Spence, Orion, Rose, Moon, Reid, Kellington, Russell, and Young.

In 1965 the co-op was disbanded. However, local farmer Geordi Kent continued to slaughter his cattle and pigs there well into the 1960s. The locals were enjoying grocery stores providing their meats and farmers had long since begun shipping their cattle to meat packing plants located in the major centres. Though the slaughterhouse remained on the Russell property, serving for some years as a storage shed, it retained much of the specialized equipment that had been incorporated into it.

Bill Wilson, who had spent his youth on a neighbouring family farm, returned to the area in 1979. He and his wife Linda purchased the Russell farm and settled into their retirement there. Shortly afterwards they donated the slaughterhouse and contents to CCHM. The structure was dismantled and carefully delivered to the museum. It was reconstructed on our site and restored to its original purpose.

While many of our visitors find the experience to be quite gruesome, some of our local folk have fond memories of this place. A brother of one of our volunteers actually was at one time an assistant to the butcher.

You might want to visit us at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum in the Spring to see our slaughterhouse firsthand…if you dare!

By Patricia Turnour

Editor’s Notes:

It is often the case that when someone makes a donation to CCHM their interest is piqued to the point that they themselves become volunteers and, in some cases, member of the board of directors. Such was the case of Bill and Linda Wilson.

While researching this subject I got a look at the original Minute Book that recorded the annual meetings of The North River Beef Ring from 1928 to 1954. It belongs to and was loaned to me by Bernice Dobson, a great grand-daughter of Archibald and Catherine Woodrow whose homestead is the main attraction at CCHM. What also makes this book of value to Bernice is the fact that many of the eateries were made by her father Joe Walker, one of many grandsons of the Woodrows.

Because much of the script is extremely difficult to read, I chose to rewrite the entry from 1928 to provide some insight into how a typical co-op functioned. The 1928 minutes were the only ones that provided sufficient legibility for a good excerpt from it. You can see that the meetings were structured and that the shareholders took their rules and responsibilities seriously.

I also found it curious that they annually held an oyster supper. Reference to it appears in the Minute Book as late as 1937.

North River Beef Ring Minute Book

An excerpt from the meeting of October 13, 1928

Moved by: Norman MacDonald, Seconded by: Mel Lovering That Les Archer and George Lovering be judges for coming year. Carried.

Moved by: Les Archer, Seconded by: Judy Kitchen The price of beef be the same as last year – 12 cents/pound. And kill two in May.

Moved by: Dave Lovering, Seconded by: Les Archer Anything under four hundred the price to be be $10.00. Carried.

Moved by: Clint Archer, Seconded by: P. Lovering A fine of $10.00 is not put in proper turn in the ring. Carried.

Moved by: P. Lovering, Seconded by: Les Archer P. Hawke be paid $5.00 for repairs to the slaughterhouse and Nora Lovering $1.00.

Moved by: Les Archer, Seconded by: A. Hawke The secretary write The Johnson Farmhouse, for the full amount due to the ring is not settled for his share to be sold and (he) put out of the ring. Carried.

Moved by: P. Lovering, Seconded by: P. Hawke That every share holder is to be present at the fall meeting or a representative, is not his share be forfeited from the ring. Carried.

Moved by: Clint Archer, Seconded by: Mell Lovering The laws of the ring be posted up in the slaughterhouse. Carried.

Moved by: P. Lovering, Seconded by: Les Archer We have an oyster supper on the 27 Oct…(unintelligible).

Andrew Lovering Received Cash $53. 38

Expenses – $45:00

Balance in the bank – $12.73

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Save the Date: Woodrow Farm Day Event Announcement – April 22, 2022

by Patricia Turnour

To view the original article and others visit the Cottage Shack magazine.

As we continue to journey through a pandemic our wonderful friends and volunteers at the museum approach the future with hope and optimism. Reflecting upon the past gives us the determination to begin anew.

Writing about one of our signature events is a fitting move forward. Our post popular celebration, the annual Heritage Day, once known as Olde Tymes Day, has a new name: Woodrow Farm Day. Through this change we honour the pioneer family who settled the museum properly. Our overall “farming” theme recognizes the hard work and determination of all the folks who braved the wilds of the New World. The Woodrow family certainly fits this bill.

Looking back at the many memories we have shared over 40 plus years of this special even; it is easy to see that it has annually been the highlight of our summer.

The day’s activities began with an inter-denominational church service and hymn sing. The tranquil location beside the Coldwater River provided such a wonderful setting that local churches did not hold services in-house, but instead invited all worshippers to come to the museum. Ministers, organists and choir members took turns hosting the event. One was moved to tears as together we sang Amazing Grace in this serene, historic place.

Following the church service we enjoyed a lunch of hamburgers, sausages, salads and homemade pies. We are now partnered with the Coldwater Lions Club, who will be providing the repast this year.

On the lawn, by the entrance to the homestead, our museum president and I, as curator, formally greet the assembled guests. Local dignitaries welcome visitors and offer their best wishes.

Over the years we have used this opportunity to share with our community many of our accomplishments and future plans. This year we hope to include two special dedications. One is our self-constructed pizza oven which will be dedicated to the memory of Kelly Jolliffe, daughter of our president Richard Jolliffe and his wife Diane, and sister of Lindsay. We also plan to dedicate our new painted quilt (or barn quilt) to the friends and volunteers of CCHM. It is fittingly modelled after a log house pattern and is prominently displayed on the side of the firewall for all to see who drive by on Highway #12. It is a member of the “Quilt Trail Program” of Simcoe County.

Our entire site will be abuzz with music, demonstrations and activities for all ages. Children will enjoy everything from face painting, crafts and games to the old-fashioned schoolhouse experience. A singsong and puppetry will entertain young and old alike.

For many years, Herb and Helen Black brought their loveable sheep and were assisted by some enthusiastic 4-H members. We hope to continue to attract local farmers and their livestock. We love having a huge variety of chickens and some miniature horses grace our mini-fall fair last fall.

Typically, one of our “resident” farmers, Doug Binns tows Around various pieces of vintage equipment. He is regularly seen on our 1950 Ford 8N tractor pulling our 1930s hay loader. Our threshing machine, seed drill, road grader and hay Tedder would also be observed taking a spin around the property. The Ramada Historical Society also brings interesting farm implements for display and demonstration.

Our eager co-op students scurry around the grounds giving guided tours to guests. However, many guests prefer to simply wander the grounds on their own, at their leisure. And that is perfectly okay.

A “must see” is the re-enacter. His tents, equipment and costume reflect a by-gone era. He camps on the site for two days. The life of a 19th century land surveyor is one of the roles he portrays.

Through the years we also have hosted car groups, motorcycle clubs, steam engine enthusiasts and blacksmith demonstrations. Although some activities come and go, we remain true to our agricultural and historical roots.

What this very special event will look like in the future is impossible to predict. But we have optimistically pencilled in the date of July 16, 2022. Perhaps it will have a new-fashioned twist on an old-fashioned favourite. So, save the date!

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Community Fun Days Announcement – March 17, 2022

By Patricia Turnour

To view the original article and others visit the Cottage Shack magazine.

For the last two years, the world has been anything but normal and it is unclear what the end normal will look like. Old, time-honoured traditions may take on new looks. CCHM board president Richard Jolliffe and I admit we are somewhat apprehensive about the future. How, after the pandemic, do we get back in step with out activities and events? Looking forward to the 2022 season is exciting, if somewhat daunting. Even so, we are going forth with an aggressive plan of action. Optimistically, our board of directors and committees are working with a variety of community partners and friends to put our plans in place.

Last summer, our programming was constrained by the government-mandated protocols of Covid 19 that were so stressful and time-consuming for everyone. All our regular events had to be put on hold due to gathering restrictions. CCHM was, however, able to open for precooked, small group tours.

Additionally, Linda Wilson, one of our directors, and I put our heads together to design and launch a new weekly event that would reach out to the local citizenry. Tuesday Community Fun Day emerged.

Linda has wonderful handiwork skills and I am a retired school teacher. The result of our collaboration was a day that encouraged adults to come and learn new skills. It was also advertised as a date to experience the museum to socialize, and demonstrate one’s handiwork. A group who shared ideas, patterns and technique soon evolved. Even my two co-op students mastered the skill of rug hooking. The gazebo provided an ideal setting for the group – a pot of tea completed the ambiance.

We hope to attract even more crafters in the coming season.

Because we wanted the day to have a family feel to it, parents and grandparents were encouraged to bring along youngsters to do crafts and to experience a “pioneer” school day. Although it started out slowly, very soon we were welcoming between 30 and 40 kids each Tuesday. Occasionally we found it difficult to accommodate everyone in the schoolhouse, so a “crafts” tent was erected where the co-op students taught the children a variety of crafts – corking, beadwork, paper bag puppets, whirligigs, butterflies and hand turbines to name a few. The children rotated among the different activity centres.

In the schoolhouse, groups under My tutelage experienced the routines of a “typical” pioneer school day. At recess they were introduced to old favourites such as Farmer in the Dell, Ring Around the Rosie, I Wrote a Letter to My Love and A Tisket (a) Tasket. Time was also spent singing songs and performing with puppets. The students practiced printing and cursive writing, read stories and studied the ABCs.

A quick trip around the museum sometimes attracts an audience watching my “pupils” walking in a line holding a long role.

The new playhouse is a favourite of the younger children. Whether playing with Lincoln logs, Lego, a tea set, stuffed animals or reading a storybook, a fun time was had by all.

Although some families came for a few hours only, many made a day of it. A welcome sight it was to see many people picnicking on the grounds. This summer, the picnic area will be expanded to accommodate additional tables currently under construction by the A-Team.

Thanks are due to “home schooling” groups that attended our Community Fun Days. Their positive feedback was encouraging. I hope to see all of these youngsters again this summer, and perhaps some new faces.

Stay tuned to our website as we begin to advertise this and other events and activities. The weekly Community Fun Days are being shifted to Thursdays (10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.), the first scheduled for July 7, 2022.

We hope to see you there!

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Cottage Shack Articles: You’ve Got Mail (A-Team Part 4) – Nov. 18, 2021

To read the original article and others visit the Cottage Shack

My name is Clay and I am one of the original members of the A-team at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM). The A-Team is a group of dedicated volunteers who use their particular skills and experience to improve various aspects of the museum. On any given Wednesday you will see anywhere from six to twelve of us working on up to three different projects. These might, for example, include erecting a pole barn, restoring a buggy, installing a new roof, replacing old boards on a barn, adding signage, creating a kid-friendly playhouse, maintaining a steam-powered tractor. The list is endless.

Although there is a lot yet that needs doing of that we wish to accomplish, a truly amazing transformation is taking place at CCHM and we are proud to have a part in it. You could too!

In earlier stories of the A-Team, I wrote about volunteering at the museum on Wednesday mournings and about how our group was expanding. I also shared some details about the early restoration and refurbishment projects we tackled.

Over the winter of 2017/2018 we were blessed with the use of a large, well-equipped workshop that belongs to my brother-in-law. By this time the A-Team was working both mourning and afternoon of a Wednesday and had grown in size to six members, so we were able to tackle two projects. One was the pre-fabrication of the framing for a future storage shed and Playhouse for kids – it will be the subject of a future article.

Restored Mail Sorter and Post Office Display 2021

The other project involved the restoration of an antique mail sorter donated by Tom and Terry Malloy who had obtained it about 15 years earlier in a Severn Township barn. It is a beauty. They had kept it high and dry in their basement throughout their tenure.

Sadly, they were unable to provide any knowledge about its origin. We chose to believe that it very likely had been employed in one of our local village post offices.

It’s fascinating that the modern postal system, having started with the inception of the adhesive postage stamp, came about in Canada mid-19th century around the time that pioneer Archibald Woodrow was building his homestead, the centrepiece of the museum.

The mail sorter was the forerunner of today’s post office box system. Whereas today people can whip into the post office with key in hand and quickly get their mail from their P.O. Box, in earlier times the mail was sorted into numbered, glass fronted boxes nestled together in a cabinet mounted one a table. The postal clerk or, in most places the size of Coldwater, the postmaster stood behind the table and handed you the mail from your numbered box. This meant that on occasion you would find yourself in line while another ahead of you may engage the postmaster in idle gossip. Customer: “Well…I heard…the cherry pie Mary Chater entered in the Fall Fair came from Walker’s bakery. And it won second prize!” Postmaster: “Perhaps Walkers might henceforth want to advertise their pies as prize-winning.” “NEXT!” But I digress.

That winter we restored our new gem. Bob remembers how a visit to a car wash solved the issues of some layers of crud. The next step required a level of dexterity since much of the finer pieces – the ones that were not already missing – had to be detached. Replacements for the missing and damaged pieces needed to be fabricated. John worked some serious magic by hand-carving a couple of rosettes. He also produced a long piece of scrollwork that crowns the front of the sorter. All the glass was replaces. Trip around the boxes posted a challenge. A few lengths of a closely matched moulding were the ticked. These we cut, fitted and attached to the glass with double-sided adhesive strips.

The completed assembly required sanding with two grades of fine sandpaper. Providing a finish that is close to the original colour required the mastery of our two most experienced antique refinishers, Mike and Bob. Mike grew up in a family of “antiquophiles.” When I asked him about the formula for the final coats of finish he said, “If I tell you, Clay, I’ll have to kill you! It’s a secret family recipe that my mother got a long time ago from a farmer in Trois Rivieres.” All I was able to determine is that it consisted of a highly flammable mixture of linseed oil, beeswax and turpentine in approximately equal portions. Apparently, the secret lies in the manner in which the elements are “cooked.” Two coats of this unique finish were buffed on with soft cotton cloths. Minwax stain was added to the mix when applied to the newer pieces to get a good colour match.

The final step of the process was numbering the glass fronts of the 54 boxes. This assignment was given to me, the very armature artist. Numbers, letters and sign painting not being in my wheelhouse, a trip to Staples was in order. There I obtained several sheets of peel and sticks decals that were relatively easy to apply. Voila! And very professional looking, I might add!

While we were busy at Gary’s shop, our honorary A-Team member, Rollie produced in his home workshop the elegant able upon which our mail sorter so proudly rests – the dilapidated table that had accompanied it was neither original nor salvageable. Therewith we were able to install the completed ensemble making it the focal point of the village post office on Main Street in the display barn at CCHM.

And now, dear reader, we have a problem and we need your help. Ad mid-point of the sorter and at the table level there is an opening for the pass through across the table of mail stamps, money, etc. It has a door the postal clerk can raise and lower as required. That is clear enough. However, there is also in that vicinity a turned rod about an inch and a half in diameter mounted between two protruding brackets. At approximately sic inches long it looks similar to the core of a toilet roller and is accessible from the front only. And it doesn’t rotate, but is locked in place with no apparent means of release. We are done stratchin’ our heads! Somebody Tell us what it is, and what is its purpose! PUH…lease!

If you are are retired – or not – and want to spend one day a week with a group of really great guys doing some remarkable historical preservation works, give me a call at (705) 209-1087. Or email me at

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Cottage Shack Articles: All Around the Cobbler’s Bench – Nov. 11, 2021

To read the original article and others visit the Cottage Shack magazine

As curator and director of Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM), I have had the pleasure of working on my interesting and informative displays. From wagons and buggies to tractors and buzz saws, the challenge is to ensure that our artifacts are well researched and well cared for.

One of our many displays is title “All Around the Cobbler’s Bench.” It is located in our carriage barn. A description based on our research accompanies the display.

Doug Binns, one of our devoted volunteers has a keen interest in the subject. He wrote about the talents of the Shoemaker in the Coldwater Current newspaper, July 2012. His article was titled “One Two Buckle My Shoe.”

The history of shoes is really quite simple. Even prehistoric man, wandering the world in bare feet regularly would have injured the soles of his feet. It did not take long for these nomads to ban together to find better ways of life. They soon began covering their feet with pieces of wood, animal hide or bark. Even today, this practice continues. An excellent resource for this information is the book All About Shoes by the Bata Shoe Company.

As society became more sophisticated, so did footwear. The simple sandal provided a much more pleasant way for walking. One’s social and financial status would eventually influence footwear fashion. Shoes also began to be designed for specific purposes, i.e., bedroom slippers, simple walking shoes, sports shoes, heavy work boots, skates and ski boots.

New fashions began to appear such as welt button, patent leather, lace and ladies’ spring heels. We are fortunate to have samples of most of the turn of the century shoes. The cost at that time would range from $1.95 for a pair of common-sense shoes to $3.00 for a more elite style. This we learned when perusing our 1906 Sears Roebuck and Company catalogue.

Although our collection is interesting, it pales in comparison to the Victoria and Albert Museum’s collection that boasts of more than 2000 shoes. Even more impressive is the fact that this display covers more than 3000 years. A shoe collector’s dream! A trip to London, England perhaps?

Although not on par with that museum, our collection includes a variety of ladies leather shoes and boots and some dainty, cloth covered shoes that usually completed a bridal outfit. The few pairs of men’s shoes and boots in our display have barely stood the test of time. Our children’s shoes, are tiny and fragile. As most of our footwear was donated by local folks, we lack examples of stylish footwear such as ones that would sport jewels, buckles or bows. DONATIONS GLADLY ACCEPTED!

As part of our display, we have some interesting tools of the trades of shoemaking and other leather works. For a long time, cobbler was a traditional handicraft – up until the invention of the industrial sewing machine in 1846 and the consequent advent of the mass production of footwear. CCHM has such a machine. It is heavy and cumbersome but still functional.

In small communities like Coldwater the shoemaker’s talents would be engaged to make all manner of leather goods including such things as saddles, reins, harnesses and other horse tack. Volunteer Bob Turnour, with a “heady” assist from Doug Binns also created a “harness rack horse” for the display of such artifacts at our museum.

If you are curious to learn more about vintage footwear, plan to visit us at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum in the Spring to view our “All Around the Cobbler’s Bench” display.

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Cottage Shack Articles: Widow’s Weeds – Nov. 5, 2021

To read the original article and others visit the Cottage Shack magazine

My name is Patricia Turnour and I am curator at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM). Among other things, my very rewarding work includes acquiring new artifacts, setting up displays and researching local history. As a volunteer, not-for-profit organization CCHM benefits from the generosity of grants to hire students for the summer months. Their work in cataloguing our collection has been invaluable.

Through the articles we write, our individual interests are emerging. My previous research on hats grew out of my passion for them. I sport one every day that I work at the museum.

My other passion is vintage clothing. We recently displayed our collection during the Coldwater Fall Fair. Our most interesting apparel is our selection of widow’s wear, also known as “widow’s weeds.”

What are Widow’s Weeds?

The word “weeds” is an old English term meaning garments. It was originally spelled “waeds.”

There have always been cultural rites associated with death. Common in Western society has been the wearing of black. But the most complex list of rules emerged during the Victorian era. Queen Victoria herself donned full widow attire after the passing of her beloved consort, Prince Albert. For over 40 years she continued to wear black. Even her staff wore black clothing and black armbands. It is believed that the only time she was not in black was when she was buried in her white wedding dress.

Only the upper-class women, who could afford the expense of replacing an entire wardrobe, followed Queen Victoria’s lead. When grieving the loss of a husband, parent or child her mourning rules were strictly followed. A mourning consultant would often be hired to guide a widow through the exercise, which included some bizarre regimens such as corresponding exclusively on black-edged stationary and greeting cards.

The weeds consisted of long black dresses, capes, veils, hats and shawls. All were usually made of coarse uncomfortable materials thus enhancing the widow’s suffering. This attire was not for the faint of heart, especially during the warm summer months! Weeping veils were worn to hide the widow’s face and most dresses had large sleeves used to wipe away the widow’s tears.

No adornments were permitted in the initial stage of one’s grief but eventually black jewelry called jet – a fossilized, light weight wood – was allowed. Few social engagements were attended besides church and funerals. Widows were expected to behave conservatively.

Following a year and one day of deep mourning, a period of half mourning prevailed, during which a slight brightening of attire to colours such as greys and browns was acceptable. After the year and a day of deep mourning, widows were meant to burn their weeds to provide closure and show the end of their grief.

After the Victorian era, these rituals and strict protocols faded. However, during the era the custom did prevail in North America.

CCHM is fortunate to have an extensive collection of widow’s weeds. Some of the items, we believe, were actually worn by the Woodrow ladies. Thankfully, they were more frugal than most and did not burn this clothing. They likely passed it on to others in need. It was also believed to be bad luck to wear these clothes when not in mourning.

To have such items intact is very special and our collection will be on display when we reopen in the Spring.

Stay tuned for my next article titled: All Around the Cobbler’s Bench about one of our latest displays. Located in the carriage barn is a wonderful display of shoes, skates, boots, harnesses, etc. The role of the shoemaker extended way beyond mere footwear.

(Portions of this article appeared in the Coldwater Current newspaper in August 2012.)

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Cottage Shack Articles: All About Ladies Hats – Oct. 28, 2021

You can read the original article and others in its series at the Cottage Shack magazine

My name is Patricia Turnour and I have been involved with CCHM for the better part of 16 years. Although my role has changed many times, my dedication and commitment to this amazing place has remained steadfast. As curator, I have the opportunity to work alongside many wonderful volunteers. Whether outdoors building a fence or guiding a tour; or indoors arranging a display or greeting visitors, the work is always rewarding.

Each of us who write here about our particular interests in CCHM brings a unique perspective that, we hope, adds to the museum’s charm.

Through my articles, my passions and interest will become apparent. I have done extensive research into the history of millinery and, therefore, my first article is about hats. Not only am I a keen collector, but the museum also has a large assortment of headwear. A number of our hats were recently on display during the Coldwater Fall Fair.

Headwear has been in use since cave dwellers wore pelts to protect their heads. Through ancient Egyptian, Greek and Roman times, some sort of headdress was worn. Eventually hats even became symbols of fashion, wealth and status.

Mop caps of the 17th and early 18th centuries, like those worn by Martha Washington, were used simply to keep hair clean. Pioneer-style bonnets served the same purpose and provided protection from the sun. These simpler fashions seldom needed the skills of a milliner. By contrast, the wealthy of the day, sported fancy, and often plumed, hats and powdered hair. “Rats” were made using collections of hairs from one’s combs and brushes gathered together and sewn into a piece of netting which was then placed under a hat to increase the hair’s volume.

During Victorian times many ladies’ hats were regarded as artistic masterpieces. But hats also came to have a variety of practical uses. For example, the light-weight lingerie hat that emerged out of the Edwardian era was typically worn in summer. Frequently, at garden parties and weddings, the wealthy class adorned these simple hats with cabbage roses, daisies, poppies, ribbons and even bird’s nests.

The widow’s weeds, which is comprised of widow’s cap, weeping veil and black dress, worn during mourning became the trend when Queen Victoria wore it while mourning the death of her husband Prince Albert. We are most fortunate to have a collection of grieving clothes at CCHM. These clothes were supposed to have been burned at the end of Mrs. Woodrow’s mourning period. She being frugal, as many women in her circumstances, saved them for later use by others in the family should the need arise.

At the onset of the 20th century, although many hats shown off by ladies were still plumed and worn with matching high collar fashions, shorter hair styles began to emerge and smaller, close-fitting hats were designed to accommodate the change.

During the First World War, fashions in general were much simpler. Hats lacked the plumage and other adornments of pervious decades. Unfortunately, too many women wore black hats with netting in mourning a soldier’s death.

This fashion trend prevailed through the Second World War during which other hat designs were inspired by the military.

By the 1950s many new and creative styles were emerging. Designers were commissioned to create unique headwear for famous celebrities. For example, Jackie Kennedy popularized the pillbox hat. Paris and Milan designers created masterpieces made of glass, fruit, tule (netting), etc. Mr. Bunn, a famous Harlem milliner is quoted as saying, “Buy the hat first and the outfit to go with it is merely an accessory.”

since the 1960s hat wearing has become much less fashionable, though.

Queen Elizabeth continues to wear beautifully designed hats matching her attire on every occasion. And at some event such as the Royal Ascot Derby it is customary for ladies to be seen flaunting exciting original designs. The Hampton hat, sported by wealthy, vacationing ladies summering in the Hamptons of Long Island, New York is a brimmed straw hat decorated with ribbons, bows, and flowers.

Smaller sculptural hats called fascinations are less cumbersome but still allow women to be socially appropriate. Several have worn these unique fashions at recent royal weddings.

At CCHM we are fortunate to have a large collection of hats worn by local women in days past.

We hope this story will inspire you to visit us at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum when we reopen in the Spring.

Stay tuned for Part 2, titled Widow’s Weeds.

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Cottage Shack Articles: My Favourite Artifact – Oct. 21, 2021

First in a Series About Historic Machines and Equipment at CCHM

To read the original article and others in this series visit the Cottage Shack magazine

My name is Clay and I am one of the original members of the A-Team at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM). The A-Team is a group of dedicated volunteers who use their particular skills and experience to improve various aspects of the museum. On any given Wednesday you will see anywhere from six to twelve of us working on up to three different projects. These might, for example, include erecting a pole barn, restoring a buggy, installing a new roof, replacing old boards on a barn, adding signage, creating a kid-friendly playhouse, maintaining a steam-powered tractor. The list of dos at the museum is endless.

although there is a lot yet that needs doing or that we wish to accomplish, a truly amazing transformation is taking place at CCHM and we are proud to have a part in it. You could too! Until recently I have given no thought as to what might be my favourite among the thousands of artifacts at the museum. But upon the arrival of the autocracy in 2020 it was love at first sight. It arrived I pristine condition, and to an A-Teamer this was huge because most arrivals represent one more restoration project. Don’t get me wrong; we all love working on restorations, but they seem to stack up faster than we can complete assignments that we also take on.

There is no way this beauty was going to be left exposed to the weather. Instead, a portable garage was erected by the A-Team to house one of the buggies making room for the autocracy in the carriage house.

What is so fascinating about the autocracy is the history that it brings. Our museum’s focus is very much on the agricultural society of the past century and farming is still an important local industry. There are a number of tractors in our collection including a Fordson tractor which is probably the earliest of the internal combustion types as well as a steam-powered giant.

The advent of the small farm tractor early in the twentieth century revolutionized farming. It could do the work of five horses for the price of one. But not all farmers could afford one, especially those with modest acreage. A conversion kit provided the perfect solution by turning a car into a tractor. One of the manufacturers even advertised that a Model T Ford could be converted to a tractor in 10 minutes and returned back to a car in 5 minutes. During the Great Depression of the 1930s and through the tractor scarce years of World War 11 this concept became quite popular with farmers, so much so that during the War and into the 1950s an Orillia company Otaco became a major producer of autotrac kits. The name Otaco was an acronym for Orillia Tudhope Anderson company 1902, makers of wagons and farm implements and, at one point, the Tudhope motorcar.

The autotrac was the “poor-man’s tractor.” As described by Bill Vance in the Times Colonist:

The autotrac was built using pre-fabricated parts, ad once the car was converted, there was no going back. It was constructed by removing the passenger cabin (often a Model A Ford such as ours), cutting off the back part of the car’s frame ahead of the axle and replacing it with a commercially available kit. The wheelbase was usually shortened for better maneuverability and access to implements. The kits would fit a variety of cars built up to the early 1930s, cars that were sitting around but their road going days were over.

The main elements of the kit were a frame with drawbar and a pair of large steel-cleated or rubber-clad tractor wheels with large internal ring gears.

The conversion kits could be installed by a large garage or blacksmith shop, or by a skilled farmer with instructions supplied.

Come visit us on a Wednesday at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum and, if you would like, I will be proud to show you my favourite artifact.

Cottage Shack Articles Museum Articles

Cottage Shack Articles: The A-Team at the Coldwater Museum Part 3 – Oct. 15, 2021

You can read the original article and the rest of the series from the Cottage Shack magazine

My name is Clay and I am one of the original members of the A-team at Coldwater Canadiana Heritage Museum (CCHM). The A-Team is a group dedicated volunteers who use their particular skills and experience to improve various aspects of the museum. On any given Wednesday you will see anywhere from six to twelve of us working on up to three different projects. These might, for example, include erecting a pole barn, restoring a buggy, installing a new roof, replacing old boards on a barn, adding signage, creating a kid-friendly playhouse, maintaining a steam-powered tractor. The list of the dos at the museum is endless.

Although there is a lot yet that needs doing or that we wish to accomplish, a truly amazing transformation is taking place at CCHM and we are proud to have a part in it. You could too!

In Parts 1 and 2 of the stories of the A-Team, I wrote about how a friend and I began volunteering at the museum on Wednesday mornings and by year two we had expanded to a crew of four. I also shared some details about the early restoration and refurbishment projects that we tackled.

Year 3 was all about building fences.

As you drive along Woodrow Road next to the museum you’ll see cedar split-rail fencing the full length of the property that appears to have been there for over a century. Although the rails may be that old, it was in 2015 that all this fencing began to appear in its present location.

It had become evident in recent years that trespassers were causing damage to the lawns and gardens and that some artifacts were disappearing. A fence was in order. The board of directors felt that a heritage fence such as the 30-foot section by the arbour would be appropriate.

Enter the A-Team – quite the scavengers. Volunteer Doug noticed that his neighbour had a massive amount of cedar rails in an overgrown section of his property. The posts had long since rotted away, but many of the rails were salvageable. The neighbour kindly donated the material. And a friend of volunteer Gord donated a slew of cedar logs that were ideal for posts.

The team, including new volunteer Mike, decided to dig the post wolves the old-fashioned way by using a manually operated posthole auger operated primarily by “Posthole Bobby.” One of us called it the hysterical way. 120 postholes were dug and 120 poles were debarked and installed.

110 rails were attached, the larger ones having been split in two using wedges the hysterical way. The following year we installed a gate and completed the project.

If you are retired – or not – and want to spend one day a week with a group of really great guys doing some remarkable historical preservation works, give me a call at (705) 209-1087. Or email me at