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Expanding history at Cloyne's Pioneer Museumby Julie Druker
Photo: Historical Society members- president Carolyn McCulloch and museum curator Margaret Axford in Cloyne’s Pioneer Museum
The grand opening celebrations at Cloyne's Pioneer and Archive Museum on June 23 attracted history buffs from far and wide to help celebrate its annual re-opening and to make public its fundraising campaign to expand the museum. The day also celebrated the Cloyne & District Historical Society's 40th anniversary as the one and only presenter of the north’s rich logging, mining, tourism and pioneer settlement history.
The event included live entertainment by Randy and Dallas Arney, and the Denbigh band Highway 41, a birthday cake made by Jill Cote, and speeches from the historical society's president, Carolyn McCulloch, and the museum's curator Margaret Axford. As a special treat for the opening, Larry Black of Kashwakamak Lake had on display his original 1952 Korean War jeep.
Long-time society member Margaret Axford, who has been the curator of the Pioneer Museum and its archives since 2000, spoke to me about the original museum that the society, which was then called the Pioneer Club, opened in 1981 in an historic 20 x 30 foot log cabin.
In 2002 the historical society added an addition to the front of the cabin, which increased the museum's floor space threefold and which now highlights many of the artifacts and archives of the area's history. She spoke about some of her favorite artifacts in the museum - one is a corn planter from 1910 that was created by a farmer at home from an old dish pan and the parts of an old plough. “I love that piece because it’s a rustic, classic piece that really illustrates the idea 'Necessity is the mother of invention'”.
Another archival favorite of Margaret’s is a photograph of Flora MacDonald Denison, owner of the Bon Echo Inn at Mazinaw Lake, which opened in 1899 and burned down in 1936. The inn catered to wealthy visitors, who came by train to Kaladar and rode by stagecoach up Highway 41 to the bottom end of Mazinaw Lake, where they boarded a launch that took them to the inn.
She also told me about a historic letter written by Major Booth, the English gentleman who started the Salvation Army. Sent from England to Louise Snider, the letter from Booth encourages Snider to continue her work setting up a Salvation Army Corps in Cloyne. “We've had people come here from the Salvation Army's head office to see and read that letter.” Axford said.
She also spoke of a recently restored doll made in Germany between 1890 and 1910, which belonged to a local child, Ora Wickware. Ora's parents at one time owned Grant's store, which still operates today across the street from the museum.
Marg Axford is excited about the launching of the society’s fundraising campaign to build a second 1400 sq. ft. board & batten addition onto the south end of the building. The 2-year project is expected to cost $90,000. “We are desperate need of more display, archival and storage space,” Axford said.
The society will be applying for funding grants from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, the New Horizons Program for seniors, and other private foundations and will be holding various fundraising events, as well as seeking donations from private sources. Margaret stressed the importance of preserving the unique local history in the north “There is no other organization in this area that is preserving the history. I believe very strongly that if we do not preserve and therefore know our history, we are doomed to make all of the same mistakes again. It's important to know where we've come from, a genuine logging community that started from nothing and grew to what it is today.”
The museum also has a wide collection of family histories and genealogies, and staff welcome other family stories from area residents. Anyone interested in sharing a family story with museum staff and/or finding more information about the museum and what it has to offer can visit the society's website at pioneer.mazinaw.on.ca.
The museum is now open 7 days a week from 10am – 4 pm until Labor Day. Admission is free and donations are gratefully accepted. Don't forget to visit the museum's retail store, which offers up many gifts, including "The Oxen and the Axe", a book that highlights the local history of the area.