| Oct 30, 2008

Oct 30/08 - Inside North Sherbrooke

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Feature Article - October 30, 2008 "Inside North Sherbrooke" Book Launch in ElphinBy Jeff Green

Isobel Graham, Barbara Howell, Beryl Stott

The North Sherbrooke Historical Society was formed three years ago, and last weekend at the Elphin Presbyterian Church, the society marked the occasion of its greatest accomplishment thus far, the publication of a book, “Inside North Sherbrooke, Volume 1”.

To celebrate the book launch and foster further research, the descendants of the families referenced in the book were asked to bring a story or an artifact for a show and tell event.

Inside North Sherbrooke is organized into 14 chapters. Some of them are about specific buildings, such as the McConnochie and Weir houses, and the Elphin Presbyterian Church itself, while others are about families and individuals, such as the Love family, and Elizabeth “Granny” Miller, who was born in Scotland in 1818, emigrated to North Sherbrooke in 1822, and lived a long and productive life, eventually having 43 grandchildren. She died in 1903.

Many of the settlers who built homesteads in the McDonalds Corners and Elphin areas, and towards what became Snow Road and Mississippi Station, arrived in Canada in 1821 on a ship called “The Commerce”.

They were given land grants, and although they were expected to pay the government for the land, the amount of effort required to clear land, build homes and survive in the harsh climate, left little extra money. In 1836 all of the settlers were granted the lands they had been working for 15 years.

Using old photographs, scraps of family history, and genealogical records, “Inside North Sherbrooke” paints a picture of how local, national, and international events shaped the way communities developed over the first 150 years of settlement in the former North Sherbrooke and Palmerston townships. North Sherbrooke is now part of Lanark Highlands and Palmerston is now in North Frontenac.

A gathering of the Wilson clan of Elphin, circa 1900.

At the book launch/show and tell, there were people connected to most of the 14 chapters in the book, and their stories added an additional context.

One of these people was Heather Gordon, whose great grandfather Samuel Gordon obtained the recipe for what is reportedly an old native salve from a local doctor. Samuel Gordon refined the salve and began producing it, and he eventually got a patent for it in the 1930s.

Although Gordon's Salve is no longer a commercial product, the secret family recipe for it remains intact, and Heather Gordon brought with her a small jar that the family made this past summer.

Mona Winterburn is descended from Solomon Benedict, an Abenaki from the Trois Rivies region of Quebec who moved to Robertsville Road partly because of the abundance of ash trees there. Making ash splint baskets was the family vocation. Mona, who lives between Elphin and Snow Road, brought examples of family-made baskets that were sold for many years in the Muskoka region.

Barbara Griffith brought a thick volume that is all about the Love family, who are the subject of a chapter in Inside North Sherbrooke, and Jim Brownlee had a family bible that was brought over from Scotland.

Other stories, such as the relationship between the McDougall and McDougalds, including the existence of Dougall McDougald, brought to the fore the strong Scottish Presbyterian roots of North Sherbrooke that persist to this day.

After the show and tell, the host of the book launch, Beryl Stott, introduced Barbara Howell and Isabel Graham, two other key members of the historical society who have played key roles in the publication of the book.

Inside North Sherbrooke is available at Wheeler's Pancake House. Through the photographic work of photographer and book designer Mary Ferguson, it includes many contemporary photos of log and stone farmhouses and barns that have survived to this day or been refurbished.

In researching the book, Beryl Stott came up with many historical photos that are reproduced in its covers, and the text includes a lot of detail that paints its own picture of how people lived their lives in the pioneering days of North Sherbrooke and Palmerston townships.

The book has been purchased by the Kingston Frontenac Public Library and will be available from the Sharbot Lake branch.

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