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Heritage Corner (April, 2021)

Heritage Corner (April, 2021)

The Beacon of St. Clair Township April 2021 Page 11
By G. Wayne Brown
Editor’s note: We’re honoured to bring our readers a
first-hand account of life in one of St. Clair Township’s
early hamlets. Duthil is now just a name on a sign and a
church marker at the intersection of Holt Line and Duthil
Road, but this summer in The Beacon, the hamlet will be
brought to life through the memories of one of its former residents. Enjoy this first installment of Duthil Days:
Memories of My Hometown.
The origin of the Duthil name
As a youth growing up in Duthil, in the former Sombra
Township, I never really gave a lot of thought about how
the name was derived. It wasn’t until the advent of the
computer and the World Wide Web that I was able to
answer that question.
It was then I learned my childhood hometown got its
name from a small village in the Scottish Highlands
which dates back before 1640 AD. Duthil was also the
name of the parish, which contained the hamlet itself
and was quite small compared to other local parishes. In
1640 AD, Parish Duthil merged with Parish Rothiemurcas
to form an area 14 miles long and 10 miles wide, and the
combined population grew to about 1,100 inhabitants.
Today, Duthil is part of the town of Tain, referenced
as a street name, a leisure centre, and in several other
locations. The town is located in the Inverness shire of
the Scottish Highlands where the A938 road it intersects
road B9007 near Carrbridge. The Duthil Old Parish
Church still stands and its burial grounds contain many
memorials to members of Clan Grant.
The name Duthil may be a tribute to St. Duthac, a
native Scot who became the patron saint of Duthil. Educated in Ireland, he was known as the Chief Confessor of
Scotland and Ireland, and he is said to have worked
many miracles. Exhumed about 200 years after his
death, his body was found to be uncorrupted. His saint’s
day feast is still celebrated annually on March 8. Today,
there is a 146 km. pilgrimage named in his honour
(called St. Duthac’s Way or The Way of St. Andrew’s)
that can be taken from Aberdeen to St. Andrews.
Sombra Township
Duthil, Ontario was settled in the early 19th century.
The War of 1812 was over and the British victory allowed
many United Empire Loyalists to relocate in Upper Canada, or what was then called the Western District. During
the 1820 survey of the area, the Lt. Gov. of Upper Canada, Sir Peregrine Maitland, who had developed a love of
the Spanish people during his service in the Peninsula
War, named it Sombra, the Spanish word for shade or
shadow, and Sombra Township came into being. But
when settlers arrived in 1822, they saw a dark, damp,
swampy area overgrown with huge, mature trees; not an
enticing sight for habitation. The area proved quite inaccessible for land travel since it was the drainage area for
the Black and Bear Creek watershed into the North Sydenham River.
Consequently, surveyors had to cross these rivers
every time a concession line was established. Ferries
were used instead of bridges to traverse these water
barriers; bridges wouldn’t be constructed until as late as
the mid-twentieth century. No wonder it took so much
longer to develop this area!
Between 1820 and 1850 many emigrants left the United Kingdom to look for a better life amid new opportunities in Upper Canada. Some of the earliest settlers to
arrive in the Duthill area in 1840 were of Scottish descent, represented by family surnames such as Reid,
Grant, Hay, and Tulloch. As well, a severe potato famine
caused a large number of Irish families, fearing starvation, to leave their country during this same time period.
Word of mouth spread stories of the grandeur of Canada which people could not resist, especially because
land was selling for $10 to $15 per acre, but not all immigrants came directly to Sombra Township. My great,
great, grandparents, William Brown and his wife Agnes,
first settled in the Madoc area just north of Belleville
before moving to the Township of Sombra in time to be
included in the 1860 census. Pioneers such as these laboured through the many challenges of road building and
one of the few assets the environment afforded them
was the flat topography. This allowed, for the most
part, a grid system of straight-line roads to criss-cross
through the dense forests and township bogs.
Many small hamlets sprung up where the roads intersected. A hamlet usually consisted of a church, a school,
a store, and in due time, a cemetery.
Some of the hamlets I remember include: Beaver
Meadow, Bethel, Bradshaw, Busyville, Charlemont, East
and West Becher, Terminus, Thornyhurst, Unionville,
Uttoxeter, and Wilkesport. Duthil, my hometown for
eight years, became an official hamlet in 1906.
Downtown Duthil
At one time it had been suggested that the school be
moved from the south up to the main intersection and
that a saloon should be built on the diagonally-opposite
corner. There would thus be a store fronting a church
and a school fronting a saloon, or as someone else put it
– “…provision, religion, education, and damnation all in
one place!”
Author’s note
If there is anything that can be considered even remotely
positive about COVID-19 it would be, at least for some of us,
an opportunity to do some things that might be normally have
been put off. In my case, the pandemic has given me time to
recount and share some of the many impressions and experiences that came my way during the twenty-some years that I
called Duthil home. Of course, as I skip back over several decades of time to recall these memories, time has a way of distorting accuracy a bit so my apologies to those of you who may
remember things differently.
G.W.Brown
Email: beacon@stclairtownship.ca to subscribe —FREE!
Just type the word ‘Subscription ’ in the Subject line See Looking, page 12
The Beacon of St. Clair Township April 2021 Page 12
The Sombra Museum is collecting pandemic stories, photos, videos, art work, etc.
(family friendly) from St. Clair Township residents to help record and preserve
memories of the COVID experience for future generations.; day-to-day memories of
life in Sombra, Wilkesport, Port Lambton, Mooretown, Lambton County, Canada, and
elsewhere in the world.
Information we hope you will share includes:
* Shopping conditions and how they changed over time.
* Adapting to working at home, and any challenges or
creative solutions that were needed.
* Financial challenges.
* Feelings caused by the outbreak and thoughts about social distancing.
* Keeping children/adults occupied during self-isolation.
* New or newly rediscovered hobbies or crafts you did
* Stories from workers on the front lines/staffing essential services.
* Struggles of family/friends infected with the virus.
* Stories of everyday heroes, i.e. people helping neighbours/people accepting
inconveniences for the greater good.
* How daily life and routines have changed.
* For those who lived through the Depression, World War II, etc., are there
similarities to those experiences?
• How social media and technology is impacting life in social isolation (using
technology for the first time, using it differently).
Submissions can be sent by email to:
sombramuseum@hotmail.com with the subject line “COVID-19 History Snapshot”.
Sombra Museum seeks information/photos of COVID era
Above: This world-weary partial page of the Brigden Progress is all that remains of the news of November 4, 1914.
Chances are this newspaper held reports of the smoldering conflict across the Atlantic as World War I broke into
flames and the conflict in far away places like Ypres, Gallipoli, Verdun, and the Somme became the topic of conversation at the local barbershop, the general store, and in homes throughout the town. But we will never know what
opinions were voiced by the townsfolk; what fears spread among the population as soldiers went off to fight; or maybe how the community could support the cause that was so far away because no newpaper accounts have survived.
Historian Ian Mason says “This is an extremely rare newspaper. W.J.Brownlee published the Brigden Progress until
the office and all back issues of the newspaper were destroyed by fire in 1919.” Mr. Brownlee later became the clerk
of Moore Township and his son, John Edward Brownlee, served as the fifth premier of Alberta.
Anyone with copies of old community newspapers is invited to contact the Moore or Sombra Museum or The St. Clair
Township Beacon at: beacon@stclairtownship.ca . Please share the past. Photo and information by Ian Mason
The 2020 Ontario Volunteer Service Awards were delayed by the
pandemic, but the Moore Museum is
now pleased to announce that eight
of its dedicated volunteers have
been honoured by the Ontario Honours and Awards Secretariat for long
-term service.
At the awards ceremony on Feb.
17, 2021, in recognition of the valuable contributions these honourees
have made to the Moore Museum,
the 2020 awards were presented to:
James Townsend-20 years
Dave Beer-10 years
Dan Hayward-10 years
Dave Taylor-10 years
John Richardson-5 years
Cathy Seward-5 years
Olivia Griffiths-youth
Carson Westfall-youth
From page 11 Looking back in time:
Brigden’s history-in-the-making
The Beacon of St. Clair Township April 2021 Page 13
Moore Museum still seeking information about Moore Twp. schools
Moore Museum is still accepting information for a virtual exhibit for our website. It will feature brief histories and
photos of the schools in the former Moore Township prior to centralization in 1963. There were 19 school sections in
Moore, four of which were union schools – two shared with Sombra Township and two with Sarnia Township. The
map, shown above, indicates the location of these schools.
If you have information on the history of any of these schools, or photos (or scans of photos) that you would be
willing to share with us, we’d love to hear from you. We would appreciate details about any school in the township,
but especially School Sections #6, #13 and #19 Moore, as our research files contain some information for most of the
school sections in the township, but we have no information at all for those three. Information can be sent to
lmason@stclairtownship.ca. We look forward to hearing from you and thank you to those who have already shared
their information will us.
Connect with Moore Museum
We want to hear from you. Please follow the link on the home page of www.mooremuseum.ca to our online survey. We very much appreciate input from our community and, as a thanks for your assistance, survey respondents
will be entered in a draw (to be held on November 13, 2020) to win a 2021 family membership and $25 gift shop gift
certificate. In addition to our website and our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/mooremuseum, we are now also
on Instagram @mooremuseum so you can watch for news from Moore Museum.
~Laurie Mason, curator, Moore Museum