Saturday, April 30, 2016

Saturday Sightings- Black-capped Chickadee

Happy Saturday Everyone!

This species of bird is a small, North American songbird that lives in deciduous forests and mixed forests, not migrating for winter months.  It is the state bird of Maine and Massachusetts, and the provincial bird of New Brunswick.  The black-capped chickadee is considered “cute” because of its oversized round head, tiny body and curiosity about everything, including people. 

They eat mainly insects, especially caterpillars, hopping along tree branches while they search for food, hanging upside down or hovering to catch food, while also catching it in the air.  During the winter, seeds and berries become more important and the black-capped chickadee commonly caches food, having a great memory for where their cache is kept.  They frequent bird feeders for seeds and will also accept seeds from a person’s hand at times, proving that they tolerate human approach well, though they are always moving, never staying somewhere for more than a week or two.  They will usually move miles south during fall and winter, and then come back north again in the spring. 

Fun Fact: These birds can reduce their body temperature by as much as 10-12 degrees C, from their normal temperature of about 42 degrees C, to conserve energy on cold winter nights.
Have a great week ahead!

Friday, April 29, 2016

Local WW1 Servicemen Photos Needed

In June, there will be a commemoration event on the 100th anniversary of local participation in WW1 to be held in St. Thomas.  We are assisting by compiling photographs and addresses (at the time) of those locals who served.  Could you take a moment to look through this partial list and see if you have any information, letters or artefacts of these men?  
Send anything you have, particularly photographs and their address, to Angela at  We will be putting together a slideshow and table display for the event in St. Thomas.  Watch for more blog posts with lists from different local towns.  We thank you in advance for your help.  

Josh. Bertram
Chester Bell
Russell Braddon
A.J. Boyle
Thos. Campbell
Leslie Clark
George Doolittle
Wm. Doolittle
John A. Graham
John L. Graham
Duff B. Gow
George Hefford
Albert Hicks
John Johnson
Don Kirkland
Arch. Kerr
H. Locke
Leroy Lacey
Florence Lyons
Adair Mills
Wm. Mitton
Wm. McNernie
Thos. Osborne
Albert Spearing
Frank Strong
Jos. Welch

Photograph and location of their resident at time of enlistment needed.  Send this post along to family, friends, and community members who may be relations.  

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Museum Opening May 1 with New Exhibits

Backus-Page House Museum starts the 2016 season on Sunday, May 1st at noon.  There are updates to the Mary Storey Textile Arts Room exhibit.  Brand new until June 30th on the second floor of the house is the must see Kist exhibit.  Stop in to see what Scottish settlers brought with them to the New World.  In case you missed it last season we've left our Beds, Baths and Beyond exhibit intact with the addition of a tub suitable for babies.

Hours of Operation from May 1 to Thanksgiving Monday
Tuesday - Friday  10am - 4:30pm
Saturdays, Sundays and Holiday Mondays  Noon - 4:30pm

Admission: Adults $5, Children/Students $2.00
Group Rates with 6 or more adults are $3.00/adult

Group Tours, Tea Parties, Catered Picnics, and Facility Rentals by appointment.  519-762-3072
Tell your Grade 3 teachers that we are taking bookings for pioneer studies field trips.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

World War Wednesdays: Letters Home to Dutton, Second World War Edition

Dutton town hall, ca. 1942

     Welcome back to another edition of Letters Home to Dutton! This week I thought it would be interesting to jump forward to the Second World War, and feature the letters available through the Canadian Letters and Images Project from that period. Each of the following pieces were received by family members in 1942 and subsequently published in the Dutton Advance. If you have any information or anecdotes involving any of the people featured this week, I'd love to hear them!

October 22, 1942
Letters From Local Boys Overseas
Dear Mrs. Duncanson (*Dutton Women's Institute*):
I received your parcel Sept. 8th and I was very please to receive same. I am keeping quite well and fit, and hope all the folks of Dutton are the same, We are doing plenty of training, and just when the weather is very unsettled. Although the sun shone all day it was very chilly. We are under canvas yet and it's awful hard to keep our kit clean. I hope we move in billets of some kind soon. I guess you get all the news from the papers, so I can't tell you much. Thanking you very much for the parcel.
George Hefford
Dutton High School, ca. 1943
October 22, 1942
Letters From Local Boys Overseas
Dutton Women's Institute.
Dear Members: With many thanks and deep gratitude, I am again in receipt of your parcels and the contents have been greatly appreciated. I might say that personally I have especially enjoyed the fruit juices contained in your parcels which are always very acceptable, but more so since I have been in hospital. I am feeling much better now, but am still somewhat of a cripple. However, I have been taken from hospital and am a guest of Mr. And Mrs. Massey for a month, which is a very welcome change after six and a half months in hospital. It is a very pretty part of the country here and one of the most beautiful views I have witnessed, overlooking a great valley and on to the foothills of the Black Mountains of Wales. The small and numerous towns of Wales of which we are surrounded are most interesting, and especially on market days when I have visited them. The Masseys have certainly gone to a lot of work and expense to make this a most entertaining place for convalescent guests. There is cycling, archery, croquet, tennis, billiards, riding, fishing and clay pigeon shooting. So no matter what our condition, there is a form of entertainment for us. I met Bill Hockin about three or four weeks ago while hobbling about on crutches, and it certainly was good to see someone from home, although I believe there are others from home now stationed near my location and I am going to try to see them as soon as I become a bit more mobile. Again many thanks for your untiring and unceasing work of remembrances of the boys overseas.
Vernon Shipley
Main St., Dutton, ca. 1945
November 12, 1942
Letter Received By Parents From Lieut. H. W. Hockin
On August 24th, Lieut. H.W. Hockin, a prisoner of war in Germany, sent a letter to his brother, Capt. J.M. Hockin in England. This letter was sent on from England and was received by his parents, Mr. and Mrs. H.B. Hockin, on Saturday. The letter, which was censored, is as follows.
France, 24 Aug. 42
Dear John: Today is the first chance we have had to write, I think it is phoney, but worth a try.
This is to let you know that I am a prisoner along with a number of my pals and many others, and not killed. However, you will probably have an official report before you get this, if you get it at all.
I won't tell you much about what has happened [Paragraph deleted by censor].
Please let dad and mother know and tell them I am O.K. and not wounded. Also look after my kit and uniform. Better store them in England, I think.
Hope to be able to give you the full story some day. Until then we are counting on you fellows. Good luck.
As ever, Bill
     Thank you all so much for your continued interest in these truly amazing pieces of local history. As long as you keep reading them, I'll keep compiling them!
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Letters Home to Dutton, WWI Part Two

Dutton, Main Street, ca. early 1900s (Robert Moore Postcard Collection, Elgin County Archives)

     Thanks so much for your interest and comments on the various postings of last week's blog! As a result of the positive feedback I have decided to continue with the Dutton Advance letters and finish off the First World War this week with two more. Unfortunately, I was unable to find any information on the featured writer, William Mitton through Elgin County Archives, which would have been nice to add. If anyone knows anything about him or any authors featured in this week's post, I'd love to hear it! I try to add faces to names whenever possible.

     Without further ado, here are some more letters that local boys sent home to their families and the people of Dutton, courtesy of the Canadian Letters and Images Project:

June 9, 1916

But Uses "Sausages" for Instilling Fear
Apt Description of Scenes at the Front
Jas. G. McMillan, formerly inspector of mines in New Ontario, and who enlisted with No 1 Tunnelling Co., in December, writes the following interesting letter to his father, Mr. Donald McMillan, Dunwich.
France March 15, 1916.
We have been on the British front since March 2nd, being for the first week attached to mining companies of the Royal Engineers, and then put in place of one on a position at the front. Mail addressed as before will reach me alright, but it should be now sent to the Army Postoffice, France, instead of to London. I believe we are officially known as the First Canadian Tunnelling Co., R.E. One section of our company is still on the Canadian front, but will join us shortly. I am down at headquarters now, but will be going back to-morrow. We are four days up and four days here. We have certainly the better of the Huns in artillery on this front, although they give us a good many shells, too. It is surprising how little damage is done by all the shelling that goes on. One will rapidly get used to it, like one does to handling explosives, I am sure. Of course the damage done buildings is extensive, and there is a limited danger zone, but it is surprising how seldom they get anyone with shells. Rifle grenades which are shot up into the air from rifles and fall into or near the trenches are fully as dangerous. Another of their devices for instilling fear into the hearts of Britons is a sausage. These sausages are immense cans of high explosives that are thrown wobbling over the front lines, and after lying for a few seconds burst with terrific noise. They say it is quite possible to dodge them even if they light close by. We have similar devices known as footballs, which are thrown from trench mortars, for wrecking things on their side. A person is comparatively safe from rifle or machine gun fire behind the parapets, which are built up to the height of a man. This sort of fire is kept up mostly at night against working parties along the front and is brought to bear almost continuously upon the communication trenches.
The ordinary routine throughout the day is to keep up the sniping and artillery fire, then as the light begins to fail the infantry on both sides start to let each other know they are there, and keep up rather heavy firing for about an hour. It is at this time that the machine guns start for the night. They are too easily located to keep up their fire during the day. The last shells of the day are usually sent over at this time. All night long flares are sent up for the purpose of locating parties at work on the parapets or on the wire entanglements.
Judging by the great number of flares he sends up Fritz is rather a nervous individual. It is rarely necessary for us to light up the front as he does it nearly always for us. Of course it is only necessary to show even the smallest light to bring machine gun or rifle fire upon you. A noise will often start it as well.
The shell fire is carried on more on the chance of catching relief parties. Our dug-out is at the head of a communication trench, where it joins the support trenches. This vicinity is quite frequently shelled a couple of times in the afternoon, always about the even hour. The closest shot, however, so far was one of our own shells which fells 200 yards or more short of the German lines. It exploded ten yards away but did not burst the case. The case might just as well not have gone through the door of the dug-out.
Casualties here are not very numerous, except when an attack is made. In the last four days I knew of a sergeant being shot by one of our machine guns, another was shot in the back by a bullet that came right through the parapet, and four were injured by the discharge of a rifle grenade.
For myself I am in the best of health, and hope you all are the same.
Dutton, Main Street, ca. 1909
April 26, 1917
Viewing The Sights Of Auld Reekie
Pte. Sam. McFarlane, of the 4th Canadian Mounted Rifles, who recently visited Edinburgh, writes to The Advance as follows:
It would take too long for me to tell you of the many picturesque places, the bonnie sights I have seen since I started my furlough. Edinburgh is the most beautiful city I have ever seen. The streets and buildings are superb, the beauty spots are many and varied. The interesting historical places should be called legion, for they are many.
I have seen the British Museum, Forth Bridge, Scott's monument, and garden, Knox's house, Holyrood Palace, Burn's residence, while in Edinburgh, St. Giles' Cathedral and a great many other places, but I lingered longer in the Kirkyard of old Grayfriars than any place else. Here are martyrs' prison cells, here the gravestone where the Scottish Covenanters signed the solemn league and covenant with their blood.
As I stood upon this hallowed spot there arose in my imagination the silent stern-faced Scot coming forward to sign his name, followed by his bowed wife, who sighs with trembling hand but stout heart; the buoyant youth full of life and disregard for the troublous times that are sure to follow; the sweet-faced maiden full of trust and hope. More and more follow.
What sought they in the old churchyard in the dark hours? Freedom to follow the dictates of their own conscience, freedom from oppression and tyranny.
For the same reasons millions have place their names on the muster rolls for active service, and have vowed to do or die to liberate the weaker nations of Europe who have been ground under the iron heel of the worst tyrant since there was first light.
The castle here is a volume in itself, obsolete now as a source of defense. It is very romantic and historic.
St. Margaret's Chapel, the smallest church in Scotland and oldest building in Edinburgh, stands close to the prison. I stood in the dungeon where the Marquis of Argyle slept his last night on earth previous to his execution, his head replacing that of Montrose on the Talbooth.
Queen Mary's apartments were in that day, I suppose, considered elaborate, but they would not cut much ice now-a-days. I looked out a window where her infant son, afterwards King James IV. of Scotland and I of England, was lowered out and taken to be baptized in the Catholic faith.
The gun carriage which bore the remains of our late lamented Queen Victoria, is in the hall, the same room where the young Douglases were lured to a banquet, given a mock trial and murdered.
     I am so glad to have found this archive and be able to keep the memories of both the Dutton Advance and our local heroes alive and in print. Stay tuned for future posts from the Second World War, which could feature some local celebrities we all know and remember!
Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Saturday Sightings- The Wood Thrush

Happy Saturday Everyone!

This species of thrush is closely related to other thrushes, including the American robin, and is widely spread across North America.  It spends its winters in Central America and southern Mexico, and feeds on soil invertebrates and larvae, as well as fruits which makes it an omnivore. It finds its food by foraging on the forest floor mainly, flipping over leaves to reveal insects, and fruits are swallowed whole. 

The wood thrush is a solitary, territorial bird with brown upper parts and mottled brown and white underparts, both males and females looking similar.  This species are monogamous breeders and about 50% of all mated pairs are able to raise two broods from 2-4 chicks a season.  Their nests are vulnerable to squirrels, raccoons, blue jays and great horned owls, to name a few, with adults primarily taken by hawks and owls.  Interestingly, the wood thrush has been seen displaying a behaviour known as “anting,” which occurs when a bird picks up a single ant or a group of ants and rubs them on its feathers.  It is not known why this species does this, but it is thought that perhaps it is to get defensive secretions from the ants for medicinal purposes or simply as a part of the birds’ own preen.

Fun fact:  The wood thrush is the official bird of the District of Columbia and the male’s song is often said to be the most beautiful in North America.  The male is able to sing 2 notes at once, which gives it a flute-like quality, with each individual bird has its own repertoire. 

Take care!    

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Clean Up Day: Volunteers Wanted

Can you help us on Saturday, April 16 at 9am to clean up the museum and grounds?  We are preparing for our upcoming season.  

Tasks suitable for all ages including high school students needing volunteer hours.  

Potluck lunch at 12:30pm.  

Contact Angela Bobier