Do you keep your postcards? Have you ever collected them on your travels as a way to remember the sites that you visited?
If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions then you are not alone.
Postcards are a wonderful way to keep in touch with families and friends, a quick note to let them know that you’re thinking of them. Sometimes they are whimsical and other items they show local business, sporting events, tourist destinations. The photos used on postcards are often of a professional quality and thus are good keepsakes of your travels.
Not only do postcards serve as keepsakes they are also a very good source of visual historical records. They let you see how a city looked throughout the decades. The Society has two fantastic collections of postcards, both from long time members. The John Gruszka (J.G.) Collection contains postcards from most of the cities in Oxford County and the Don Wilson (D.W.) Collection contains mostly images of old Woodstock. Pictured below are three views of Dundas St., in Woodstock, Ontario from different eras.
Historic buildings and churches are often favourite photographic choices for postcards. Showing below are some of the historic churches from Oxford County.
Next time you’re travelling or are needing historical pictures for your project, contact the Oxford Historical Society – we might just have the postcard that you need!
This guest post is presented by Michael Stainton, who was a missionary serving the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan from 1980 to 1991. It was there he first encountered George Leslie Mackay. He is founder and secretary of the Canadian Mackay Committee.
In 1997 he organized the first international conference on George Leslie Mackay. In 2005 he was in Taiwan as a consultant to a documentary on Mackay, “The Black Bearded Barbarian”, produced for OMNI TV. In 2006 he organized a conference on Canadian Missionaries in Asia, in which Mackay was one of the missionaries discussed. In 2007 he organized a panel on “Missionaries in Unaccustomed Contexts” at the Canadian Asian Studies Association East Asian Conference, where he presented on “George Leslie Mackay and the Head Tax”. He was consultant for the display of Mackay’s Taiwan Aboriginal Artifacts in the Royal Ontario Museum. Currently he is leading the campaign to get a Canadian stamp commemorating Rev. Mackay.
In this paper I try to demonstrate how the Zorra Pioneers created “the most famous of the sons of Zorra” – Rev. George Leslie Mackay. Growing up in that Highland Presbyterian frontier community equipped Mackay with the spiritual, intellectual, and practical skills which contributed to the unique success of his pioneering mission in Formosa from 1872 until his death in 1901. The gifts that Mackay gave to Taiwan, and the contributions he made to Canada, are part of the story and continuing legacy of those Zorra pioneers.
It was two hundred years ago this year, in 1820, that Angus and William Mackay became the first Scottish settlers of Zorra. A decade later, in 1830, some 360 Sutherland Highlanders arrived, who, “left their native land, not as a matter of choice but from necessity forced upon them by the covetousness of Highland landlords” (W.A Mackay 1899:22). Among these pioneers were George Mackay (1799-1885) and Helen Sutherland (1801-1885). Both were born in the fishing town of Dornoch, not on the Strath Naver. There must have been several families from around Dornoch, because they named Embro after the village on the coast about a kilometer north of Dornoch. In the forest and swamps of Zorra they settled on what today is the 10th line in East Zorra-Tavistock, a farm marked by a cairn at the gate (though the farm is no longer in the Mackay family). Along with other Zorra pioneers they worshipped at the Old Log Church and are buried there. “GLM” was born March 21, 1844, the youngest of the six children.
Collective memory (or social memory) is “an expression of collective experience: social memory identifies a group, giving it a sense of its past and defining its aspirations for the future … (It is) a source of knowledge … provides the group with material for conscious reflection (Social Memory p. 26). But such memory is not just about the past – “memory provides a perspective for interpreting our experiences in the present and foreseeing those that lie ahead”. (Social Memory, p. 51).
Growing up in Zorra Mackay would have learned the collective memory of “the dark and gloomy days of the “Sutherlandshire Clearances” when hundreds of tenant farmers, who shed their blood for its duke, were, with their wives and families were evicted. … Ruined cottages, deserted churches, and desecrated graves were the “gloomy memories” they carried with them from Scotland.” (From Far Formosa p.14, hereafter FFF). Out of this Mackay took with him a strong sense of justice, and an approach to others that treated all as equals. This was noted by his contemporaries.
We must not conclude that collective memory determines the values and attitudes of those who share it, and thereby efface the agency of the individual, and certainly not such a powerful and unique personality as Mackay. But collective memory shapes powerfully and deeply. One only need to look the political power of the collective memory of residential schools or of slavery in Canada to understand this.
Joseph Beal Steere was professor of Zoology and Paleontology at the University of Michigan. In 1873 he travelled in China and Southeast Asia, spending 8 months in Formosa. Visiting Mackay in Tamsui:
“I found the walls of the house he occupied hung with rough charts and maps for his teaching geography and astronomy, and he was drilling a little band of young Chinese … During my stay with him I was astonished at the enthusiasm and zeal he had awakened in the young men who were studying with him, and I could not help attributing this to his innate American ideals (*Steere knew that Mackay was Canadian so uses American in the cultural sense) of the equality of all men before God; of the universal brotherhood of mankind; and the habit, growing out of this, of treating all men as equal. It seemed to me that he had a much more kind and frank way of treating the Chinese with whom he was associated, than had the European missionaries (* He meant the English Presbyterian mission in southern Taiwan) who with all their belief in the value of the human soul, have had such training in the difference between the high and low that they show, unconsciously, in every act, that they are dealing with an inferior race. I may have put too much stress on this; but it seems to me a subject worthy of consideration of all missionaries” (Steere 2002. Formosa and Its Inhabitants. Paul Jen-kuei Li, ed. Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica. p. 162)
Mackay’s “habit of treating all men as equal” did not come from some modern theory of human rights. It came from the evangelical Free Church faith into which Mackay was born (the Scottish Free Church schism came to Canada in 1844, the year Mackay was born. Embro Church joined the dissidents the same year), and lived to the day he died.
So, In his letter defending his controversial marriage to a “Chinese lady” in 1877 (Mackay to McLaren, Dec 17, 1877, Mission Reports Series 1 Vol 1, p. 177) , Mackay claimed the authority of Jesus – “and as I from my heart believe that Chinese and Canadians are exactly the same in the presence of our Lord I act accordingly”.
Much has been written on how the faith of the Zorra Pioneers shaped GLM. He wrote of it himself (FFF 1896: 14):
“Peace to the honoured dust of those brave pioneers! They were cast in nature’s sternest mold, but were men of heroic soul. Little of this world’s goods did they possess. All day long their axes rang in the forests, and at night the smoke of burning log heaps hung over their humble homes. But they overcame. The wilderness and the solitary place have indeed been made glad. And more. They worshiped and served the eternal God, taught their children to read the Bible ad believe it, listen to conscience and obey it, observe the Sabbath and love it, and to honor and reverence the office of the gospel ministry. Their theology may have been narrow but it was deep and high. They left a heritage of truth, and their memory is still an inspiration. … Men may talk slightingly today about that “stern old Calvinism.” They would do well to pause and ask about its fruits. What other creed has so swept the whole field of life with the dread artillery of truth, and made men unflinchingly loyal to conscience and tremorless save in the presence of God?“
“The evangelical Calvinism of Mackay’s native Scotland shaped his evangelistic work in Formosa from the moment he arrived until his death. It included an unwavering belief in divine sovereignty and a deep sense of God’s providence which he conveyed to his ministerial students through sermons, catechism, and scripture, and in the study of science through the inductive Baconian method whose goal was to teach them “the wonderful creations of our God.” (Van Die 2012:31)
Mackay never left this faith, and on occasion vigorously defended it against the more lax urban practice of other Presbyterians. At the height of his fame, in the Montreal Anniversary Missionary Meetings in November 1880, Mackay the evangelical did not hesitate to criticize the very churches which were funding his work:
Rev. Dr. G.L. Mackay of Formosa …made a few closing remarks. When he surveyed the Church as a whole his heart was saddened by the apathy and indifference which largely prevails in regard to vital Christianity. … Many of the churches were dead. Even in this great wealthy and highly favored city of Montreal there were dead churches. Too much money by far had been expended upon church edifices, and too many congregations were as a consequence carrying a load of debt which they found to be an intolerable burden. The system is wrong, it is wicked, and its effect upon the mission schemes of the church is disastrous. Then he thought the Church was too easy and compromising in relation to the world. It is too ready to meet society and fashion and frivolity half way, and so delude people into thinking they could serve two masters. The thing is impossible. People may disparage the Covenanters, to call them misguided fanatics, but there was a sterling ring about the Christianity of these men, who counted not their lives dear to them that they might witness a good confession. We want society and the church to be permeated with a spirit like theirs, and then we shall be able to do great things for the Lord’s cause at home and abroad. (Presbyterian Record VI:2 February 1881:14)
That spirit energized Mackay for 30 years of exertion in Taiwan. And the exertions of childhood in a frontier farming community gave him the physical stamina to match.
There was no dentist in old Zorra, though in 1852 there was one physician in West Zorra. In fact there were only two dentists in all Oxford County – in East Oxford and Norwich. So you did DIY dentistry or suffered. Though Mackay did take some basic missionary medical training at Princeton, we can assume that he first learned his dental skills in Zorra. This is clear in his account of how he pulled his first tooth in Taiwan (FFF 1896:351):
“My first attempt to extract a tooth was in 1873. On leaving Tek-chham with the students one day we were followed by a dozen soldiers who had been sent to watch our movements. One of their number was suffering intense pain from a decayed tooth; he said, “There is a worm in it.” I had no forceps but after examining it I got a piece of hard wood, shaped it as desired, and with it removed the tooth. It was primitive dentistry to be sure, but the tooth was out, and the poor soldier wept for joy and was most profuse in his gratitude.“
Mackay did not plan to pull teeth when he went to Taiwan, but here on the road was a call to “listen to conscience and obey it” in the spirit of Jesus. Out comes the farmboy pocket knife, his experience carving wood, the memory of how it was done in Zorra, and courage to give it a try.
Mackay discovered that (FFF1896:316):
“The priests and other enemies of the mission may persuade people that fever and other diseases have been cured, not by our medicines, but by the intervention of the gods; but the relief from toothache is too unmistakable, and because of this tooth extracting has been more than anything else effective in breaking down prejudice and opposition.”
Frontier dentistry became central to his evangelism. There are over 200 references to pulling teeth in his Diary.
“Our usual custom in touring through the country is to take our stand in an open space, often on the stone steps of a temple, and, after singing a hymn or two, proceed to extract teeth and then preach the gospel.”
The hymns (or more correctly psalm paraphrases) sung in Zorra were sung acapella in Gaelic led by a precentor. It was not until 1900 that the Embro Church installed an organ. W.P Mackay (1899:79ff) vividly describes the effect on the congregation of “those majestic Psalms in the old Gaelic airs, right heartily did the whole congregation join, until there was a volume of sound surpassing in power, if not in harmony, anything furnished us today by our choirs and “kists o’ whistles”.
As they still do, these hymns communicate with emotional colour the elements of faith, planting it firmly in the heart of even boys who fell asleep during the two hour sermons and envied the Methodists because they did not have to memorize the Scottish Catechism.
There are hundreds of references to singing hymns in Mackay’s Diary. We can assume that he taught them to his students in Minnan (language spoken by the majority of people in Taiwan) and led them as precentor. Probably Mackay had obtained a copy of the early Minnan hymnbook of Rev. William Young of the London Missionary Society.
“After breakfast and the Singing of Several hymns I told A Hoa that he could leave if he choose and return to Tamsui or remain inside or follow me into the Streets. In a moment he was at my side, the rest followed immediately so together we walked out and along the main road or Street. The villagers were in groups talking vehemently and casting terrible looks at us. Their eyes were the pictures of pent up rage. A Stone was thrown by a young Strong looking fellow. It nearly struck me on the side of the head. We turned about and began to sing a hymn, then I spoke, a few came quite near. We sang again, then walked on all round and returned to the house we occupied Where we read the Gospel by Mark clean through.” (Mackay’s Diary May 25, 1873)
At times this hymn singing seemed to have a powerful efficacy, with a volume if not harmony, surely unimagined in Zorra:
Made a trip to Tho -a-hng and on our way back over the table-land and in the midst of a fir grove when quite dark several Robbers Surrounded us with long knifes in their hands. I suggested to Start up a hymn. One of the ruffians said roughly “Come on they have no money.” It was long after many retired to rest that we got back. How strange! (Mackay’s Diary June 9, 1873)
Mackay’s favorite hymn, often mentioned in his diary, was Isaac Watts’ 1781 “I’m not ashamed to own my Lord”.
I’m not ashamed to own my Lord Or to defend his cause, Maintain the glory of his cross, And honour all his laws.
Jesus, my Lord! I know his name His name is all my boast Nor will he put my soul to shame Nor let my hope be lost.
It is still in the 1997 Presbyterian Book of Praise (#393), though not to the vigorous tune Lyngham sung by Mackay. It is not in Voices United. Ironically is was dropped from the 2007 hymnbook of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. Perhaps a sign that there are now a lot of “dead churches” where, especially in prosperous Taiwan today, “too much money by far had been expended upon church edifices”.
In its 4 verses the hymn encapsulates the faith that Mackay took to Taiwan from Zorra. Today when we honour the memory of Mackay we should also say “Peace to the honoured dust of those brave pioneers!”, those Highland refugees who helped build both Canada and Taiwan.
There are two historical plaques in Embro commemorating Mackay, in English, French, Chinese characters, and romanised Minnan. He deserves to be so honoured. It seems to me time that there should be a plaque honouring the Zorra Pioneers as well. This year, 2020, marks the 190th anniversary of their arrival in Oxford County. It would be an appropriate project for the Oxford Historical Society to see such a remembrance in place when we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Mackay’s arrival in Tamsui, on March 9, 2022.
In the meantime …. the Canadian Mackay Society is in the final stages of a campaign to persuade Canada Post to issue a Commemorative Stamp for Mackay on that same date. It would be helpful if members of the OxHS sign our petition to Canada Post, as well as for OxHS to write a letter of support. How wonderful it would be if at the dedication of a plaque in Embro there will also be a temporary post office at which the stamp is officially issued!
Pictured on the right is the Mackay display at the Embro Presbyterian Church, photo courtesy of Eleanor Gardhouse.
References Austin, Alvyn (1986). Saving China: Canadian Missionaries in the Middle Kingdom 1888-1959. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. Chen Guan-chou & Louise Gamble,eds. (2012) North Formosa Mission Reports. Taipei: The Presbyterian Church in Canada & The Presbyterian Church in Taiwan. Fentress, James and Chris Wickham (1992). Social Memory. Oxford UK; Blackwell. Mackay, George Leslie (1896). From Far Formosa. Toronto: Fleming Revell Mackay, George Leslie (2015). The Diary of George Leslie Mackay 1871-1901. Louise Gamble et al. eds. Taipei: Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica. MacKay, W,A. (1899). Pioneer Life in Zorra. Toronto: William Briggs Mackay, W.A. (1901). Zorra Boys at Home and Abroad. Toronto: William Briggs Rohrer, James R. (2010). “The Legacy of George Leslie Mackay”. International Bulletin of Missionary Research. Vol 34, No. 4 October 2010 Shenston, Thomas S. (1852) The Oxford Gazetteer 1852. Reprinted 1968. Woodstock: Council of the Corporation of Oxford Steere, Joseph Beal 1873 (2002). Formosa and Its Inhabitants. Paul Jen-kuei Li, ed. Taipei: Institute of Taiwan History, Academia Sinica. Van Die, Marguerite (2012). “Growing Up Presbyterian in Victorian Canada”: Childhood Influences and Faith Formation. In The Life and Legacy of George Leslie Mackay. Clyde Forsberg Jr. ed. Newcastle on Tyne: Cambridge Scholars Publishing
In March of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic came to Canada and stayed, the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum was, like every other business, attraction and household, shut down.
While being closed to the public, museum staff were able to continue their efforts in researching and documenting local history by working from home. In that time since the end of March until early August many of you and others across North America have become followers of the museum’s Facebook page, and by that means you have been able to visit the museum from a virtual point of view.
We are pleased to announce that as of August 10th, the Ingersoll Museum has been able to reopen for public tours, between Monday and Friday, although some of our operating procedures have changed.
As I write this blog entry, we ask that you contact the museum ahead of time to arrange a date and time for a scheduled tour. In other words, we are open by appointment. When you wish to come to the museum, we ask that you call 519-485-5510 and reserve a time that is convenient for you. By doing so, you will also enjoy (we hope) a personally guided tour of the main building, the Oxford County Museum School, and of course the historical cheese factory.
What will you see? 2020 marks the 110th anniversary of the Ingersoll Pipe Band so the museum has installed a special commemorative exhibition that delves into the history of this world famous community ambassador and some of the individuals who have been long-time members. Originally slated to have closed in June, “A Piper’s Salute” has been extended until October 1st.
As many of you know, the museums of Oxford County were part of the award winning Oxford Remembers Oxford’s Own Project from 2014 until 2018 to commemorate the centennial of the Great War. One of the displays that we had hoped to have in Ingersoll was unavailable until now.
“Souterrain Impressions” is a travelling exhibit created by the London based Canadigm Group. For a number of years this local group of researchers have voluntarily travelled to “somewhere in France” in order to climb down many metres below ground level to explore and document a large chalk cave that had been home to dozens of Canadian troops in the days and weeks leading up to the attack on Vimy Ridge. While encamped in this cave, soldiers carved and sculpted their names, cartoons and cap badges into the walls of soft chalk.
By carefully and painstakingly documenting and photographing the walls, pillars and ceiling of this cave, the members of the Canadigm Group have documented over 200 different soldiers who lived below ground during this important time in Canadian history.
With the use of high-resolution laser technology, their names and creations have been photographed; taking plaster casts of the carvings was not an option because the chalk is so soft. Some examples have been recreated using 3-D printers to fashion lifelike and life-size reproductions.
All of the work done by this group of enthusiasts was turned into a travelling exhibition that was seen in different Canadian cities in 2016 and 2017. It was then sent to the interpretive centre at Vimy Ridge to mark the 100th anniversary. Supplementing this larger exhibition were two smaller displays; one of which is now on view at the Ingersoll Museum. This particular one had been at the Canadian Embassy in Washington DC, and at Canada House in London England before coming here. We are honoured to be the current exhibitor.
With all this being said (or written), you can see that the Ingersoll Museum continues to be more than just cheese, and still has a lot to offer tourists from afar and visitors from around the corner. While things are not as they once were, and perhaps may not be for quite some time, we strive to offer a special experience to everyone who visits. We hope that you will be some of those people.
Many thanks to Dr. Elaine Becker for providing the information in this post.
Your help is needed!
Dr. Elaine Becker is in the process of compiling another local history which is related to an important immigration scheme that ran from 1923 to 1936 – the story of Burnside Lodge over the years and the young men who became valued citizens in this area of Ontario should not be lost.
Small scale operations began in 1903 when The Salvation Army established the “Migration and Settlement Department”.
The principles of the department were:
The needs of the individual were of major concern, including his mental and physical condition
Ascertain the reasonable prospect of the individual succeeding overseas
The absorbing power of the overseas Dominion was taken into account
The after care of the migrant was to be undertaken as a moral obligation by The Army
The work that was carried on at Burnside Lodge in Woodstock, Ontario should not be confused with any of the programs, such as the Dr. Barnardo group which brought orphaned children to Canada. The young men who came to Woodstock came by their own choice and planning.
The Salvation Army Boy Farmers Scheme
The Boy Farmers program was only a small segment of The Salvation Army’s immigration scheme. The Army sponsored and oversaw the migration to Canada of more than 250,000 immigrants from England and other European countries.
Young men between the ages of 14 and 20 applied to the Salvation Army to come to Canada under this plan. If accepted for the training, they attended farm training at Hadleigh Farm in England and then were examined for their suitability to immigrate to Canada. Once accepted they were booked for transportation to Woodstock or to Smith Falls, Ontario. They were employed by local farmers and their situations were supervised by an officer from Burnside Lodge. They stayed at the lodge until everything was settled.
Burnside Lodge was located on the present site of the YMCA at 808 Dundas St, Woodstock ON
Some of you may remember the building on Dundas Street and have pictures or memories of the facility later used during the war for housing the Women from the training base at the fairgrounds.
We are working to compile some of the stories of the young men who immigrated to Canada to work on local farms. If you can help in any way with this story or if you know any of the families who share those roots or any of the farmers who engaged the young men when they arrived, please contact the Oxford historical Society by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, thank you.
Thanks to the Woodstock Museum, NHS for providing the information for this post.
The Oxford Historical Society is very pleased to hear that the Woodstock Museum, NHS has re-opened as of today, Tuesday, July 7, 2020!
Information about how the Museum is handling COVID-19 safety concerns can be found on their website or by calling them at 519-537-8411.
The Museum has started an email subscription list. To keep yourself informed about Museum activities follow this link to join their mailing list. Or you can send an email to email@example.com and request to join their mailing list.
This information is taken from Longley Auctions FB page: D.W. Karn piano and organ company, formed in 1867, the year of Canada’s Confederation. It operated in Woodstock, Ontario and was owned by D.W. Karn, who was also the mayor and ran for Parliament twice. The first factory was located at Dundas and Reeve Street, later moving to larger facilities at Dundas and Wellington. This factory burned down twice and was later relocated to Dundas and Wilson.
Longley Auctions is a dealer in postal history and they came across this advertising cover for D.W. Karn & Co., and kindly sent it onto the Oxford Historical Society. The cover shown has a 3c Jubilee tied by a Woodstock postmark (1897) and shows the enormous factory. The cover is a front only (the back is missing). The item is available for purchase from Longley Auctions for $35.00, please contact them for more information.
Correction notice: There was an error in the video contained in the post dated June 8, 2020 – Oxford County Library Local History. The Oxford County Branch Ontario Ancestors was mistakenly referred to as the Woodstock Branch of Ontario Ancestors (slide 13). The corrected video is located on the Society’s homepage.
If you have an article concerning the history of Oxford County that you would like published on the Society’s blog please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hello Everyone, The Ingersoll and Tillsonburg branches of Oxford County Libraries had planned a Local History week event; but then Covid-19 came along and the events were cancelled. Not to be deterred the Society still decided to create a video for the event. Our video will also be posted on the Oxford County Library Facebook page.