| Jan 21, 2015

In an effort to preserve local history that otherwise might end up in the landfills, Margaret Axford, curator of the Pioneer Museum and Archives in Cloyne, gave a presentation titled “History in a Box”, at the Cloyne & District Historical Society’s meeting on January 19.

Axford’s basic message was: don’t give that old dusty attic shoe box the old heave-ho; it deserves a second look. Even if history is not your personal cup of tea, then passing the box on to a member of a historical society or a local museum makes much better sense than simply tossing it out.

Axford opened up one such box that came her way over a year ago via one local resident who had the wherewithal to know that the artifacts might be of interest to members of the Cloyne and District Society (CDHS).

At the meeting, Axford unveiled the contents of the box, and step by step pieced together what she found. The box contained over 150 artifacts that included numerous photographs, news clippings magazines, calendars and other documents, which tell a somewhat spotty story of one Dylan Francis, who came from Culloden, ON but also spent time in North Frontenac. An RCAF photo shows that Francis joined the Royal Canadian Air Force at some point as a young man and likely trained near Windsor Mills, Quebec, since photos found in the box showing men fixing airplanes were printed at a pharmacy in that town. The box also contained numerous clippings from the Toronto Star telling of the fates of various WW2 soldiers, likely Dylan's buddies.

We find out that Dylan played hockey in Toronto at Humberside Collegiate from another photo and that he likely married Marjorie Francis. There were numerous old photos circa the 1880s or 1890s of people that may have been his grandparents and one especially delightful photo of two young boys.

Axford spoke about the fun and excitement she feels delving into these artifacts. “It is like trying to solve a puzzle and what we are always trying to do is find out more about the local history in the area here.” She said that one Aha! moment came to her when she discovered a card from the Culloden Literary Society dated January 31, 1905, which led her to the understanding that Dylan Francis was likely the son of Viola Dylan and George Francis. A claims map of Denbigh dated 1955 places Dylan Francis in the local area though it remains unclear why that was or in what capacity he spent time here. This discovery was made thanks to a number of envelopes and Legion magazines that were mailed to Francis in the 1970s to RR2 Cloyne.

Axford said she might try to contact other historical societies in south western Ontario to see if anyone there might be interested in these artifacts. She said that if not, they will likely remain as a collection at the Pioneer Museum.

The point of the presentation was aptly summed up by CDHS member Ian Brumell. “The point here is not so much about this fellow Dylan Francis in particular but more about what it takes to put all of the separate pieces of information together to try to get the story right. That, and most importantly, encouraging people to look into those old dusty boxes they might find when cleaning out a home. If you have stuff, think first before you just go ahead and chuck it out. I remember watching and was almost in tears when one house in this area was completely demolished and everything inside was completely destroyed. When that happens you can only imagine all of the history that is being lost.”

Anyone who has such a box but holds no use for it can contact their local historical society.

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