Keeping Our History Alive
Yesterday I visited the foyer of the county building in downtown Woodstock ON to look over the offerings of historical books on sale there. Wow! I found some gems. Here is one that interested me as I had researched Thomas Ingersoll, the father of Laura Secord Ingersoll, when I was writing the third Loyalist book. And, of course I grew up four miles north of Ingersoll so feel a little wrapped up in that history. I look forward to reading more about those times a couple of hundred years ago.
Here is The Oxford Gazetteer, 1852. I love the old-fashioned hard cover with the county of Oxford crest on it. Way back, Oxford District was a huge tract of land in what is now southern Ontario. Once enough land was settled those districts were broken up into villages, towns and eventually cities as well as the townships and counties that we know today. The city of Woodstock is the county seat of present-day Oxford County and the book sale was held in the new county building on Peel Street in downtown Woodstock. Oxford County is known for its rich farmland and Woodstock prides itself in being the Dairy Capital of Canada.
I was excited to see this book by John Toll as it is about the tornado that devastated parts of Oxford County in 1979. It was August and my parents had been away on a trip to Europe so they missed all the excitement. When we picked them up from the airport a couple of days after the tornado, we pointed out the fields of corn that had been flattened and were now beginning to rise again. Yes, the corn stocks, about 5 or 6 feet high had been laid flat and we thought they were done. No. Immediately after the tornado the stocks began to lift in curving arcs. Every day they made their way back to growing straight again. I don’t remember how long it took for that process to be completed but the corn crop in September was pretty normal.
Another memory I have of that is the terror that night of not knowing what had happened to the Bimini summer camp where our young son was. There was no telephone to the camp so I called my brothers who lived nearby to get news. They told me exactly just where the tornado strip had been. Thankfully it did not include that camp out in the woods with all those children there for the week.
It will be fun to get someone else’s take on the tornado of 1979 right here in Oxford County.
I’ve lived a good part of my life in southern Ontario but never did I know about the historical swampy land we now live on. Apparently the building of dams tamed the natural waters and made all the wonderfully rich farmland possible. The Village That Straddled a Swamp talks about some of that. I am excited to learn more. By the time I was growing up in the 60s and 70s the land was as it is today. Thanks to research for my books I learned what the land was like 300 years ago here. I’m interested to put my own memories to the test as I read this beautifully illustrated book by Doug Symons.
The importance of such groups as historical societies, museums, archival organizations and other such associations came again to my mind as I leafed through Honouring Oxford: Memorials and Cenotaphs of the Great War. It is a collection of photos, names, and stories of those who fought in what was then called the Great War but came to be known as World War I. Just when we wonder if our history is in danger of being bulldozed to make way for “progress” this book appears. I even found Embro there and a photo of the cenotaph where I as a Girl Guide stood in the wind and snow giving my salute to those fallen heroes. All of the memorials in the county are included in this lovely book, recently published.
I like to think that my historical fiction tells our history in a different way. I take the events and people of history and create fictional characters who might have lived in that time. I also have had an interesting time writing of Ron Calhoun in The Man Behind the Marathons. It’s history of a different sort. And my latest book, My Story, My Song tells a little of what it was like to grow up in the 50s and 60s here in southern Ontario.
All of these books (available on Amazon, Audible, Kobo and Kindle) go a long way to keeping our history alive.