Friday, April 17, 2015

Foodie Friday- Potato and leek soup

Potato and leek soup
  • 2 large leeks
  • 1-1 1/4 pounds of potatoes (3 medium sized)
  • 1/2 large onion
  • 1 oz butter
  • 2 thyme sprigs (fresh)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp white pepper
  1. Chop the leeks. Wash them in a bowl of water, allowing the grit to fall to the bottom of the bowl. Lift the sliced leeks into a colander to drain. Rinse well and pat dry before using.
  2. Dice the potatoes and onion.
  3. Melt the butter in a large soup pot or dutch oven. Add the leeks, potatoes and onions, stirring to coat them in melted butter. Turn the heat to low. Cover the pot and allow vegetables to 'sweat' for 15 minutes, stirring every 3 minutes to prevent burning.
  4.  Add the vegetable broth, bay leaves, thyme sprigs, salt and pepper.
  5. Turn up heat and bring to simmering point. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until vegetables are tender.
  6. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Blend the soup until smooth with an immersion blender or in batches using a food processor.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

World War Wednesdays: British Home Children in Elgin County and Beyond

World War Wednesdays: British Home Children in Elgin County and Beyond
     Before jumping into this week's post I wanted to thank both the regular followers and new readers for the astonishing view count on last week's post! It more than doubled the old record and I am very excited that so many people have renewed access to these stories. I also checked with my dad before writing this to make sure that he hadn't just read the post that many times, and he assures me that other people helped reach that number-- so thank you!
      This week's post is a bit of a stretch of our parameters but please bear with me because it's a subject that I think cannot be discussed enough. It's another one of the little things that come up in conversations with my grandpa that make me want to do some investigating!
      A while back he talked about a group of kids that he knew growing up who had come over as part of the British home children program. As a kid myself, one of the first historical books I ever read was on the subject. For this week, I decided to do a bit of digging and see what this concept really entailed.
A group of young home children with their belongings
     Between 1869 and the late 1930s, a program begun by Scottish Quaker and philanthropist Annie MacPherson facilitated the emigration of over 100,000 children were sent from the United Kingdom to Canada, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. Motivated by social and economic forces, churches and philanthropic organizations sent orphaned, abandoned and pauper children to Commonwealth countries with the belief that these children would have a better chance for a healthy, moral life in rural areas, where families welcomed them as a source of cheap farm labour and domestic help. According to these conditions, Canada was the ideal location for them to be sent.
     Over fifty sending agencies in the UK were established to organize the groups of children, some of the more well known names are Rye, Macpherson, Fegan, Quarriers, Barnardo, Middlemore, Catholic Emigration Society, Salvation Army, Church of England Waif & Strays.After arriving by ship, the children were sent to distributing homes, such as Fairknowe in Brockville, and then sent on to farmers in the area.
     Although many of the children were poorly treated and abused, others experienced a better life here than if they had remained in the urban slums of England. Many served with the Canadian and British Forces during both World Wars.It is estimated that 12%, over 4 million, of the Canadian population is a descendant of a Home Child. Home Children Descendants now live worldwide.
     With numbers like that and our area being an ideal rural location, Home Children are no doubt a part of our history. When I looked into records of Home Children in Elgin County, I found a number of names and stories. There are numerous message boards and societies which seek to reunite descendants of the children with their UK relatives, and I found instances of people from all over the world looking for information on Home Children who had lived and been buried in places like St. Thomas.
    I happened to come across many cases connected to Elgin, but I will share just one example of a local child placement in Port Stanley. Johanna Stilwell, aged twelve, travelled from Bristol, England aboard the SS Prussia on July 9, 1870 and was placed as a servant to a family in Port Stanley. On April 7, 1891, she penned an affectionate letter to the operator of the home in which she had stayed in England:
Dear Miss... I was very much pleased when I received your letter. I am glad you enjoyed your holiday. I have heard where my sister lives, and have written to her this week. She lives at Mr James Law, a farmer, only one son, at Thorald (Thorold). I thought you had letters from all the girls that you had asked to write you, and I think it very ungrateful of them not to write to you. I am very glad to hear that you received a letter from M. A. Cambell. I am very sorry indeed to hear of the death of Mr Greatorex. Give Miss Emma my kind love, and also Mrs Greatorex and master Eddy and Robert. I have enjoyed the winter very much. It has not been very cold. There has not been very much snow. I believe there never is much snow just here, because we are so near the lake. Please give me the names of some of the girls who are coming out to Canada with Miss Rye, who you can best recommend, for a lady in Port Stanley wishes to get one - one who is kind and gentle to children. Dear Miss ..., give my kind love to Miss Jane and to Mrs. ... I hope Mrs. ... has been well this winter, as she generally has a cold. Give my love to Mr. Spring, and tell him I have not forgotten the sermon which he preached to us before we came to Canada. I hope Miss Bessell was pleased with my letter to her. We have lately had a new library in the Sabbath school, and the books are very pretty ones. I hope Mrs Greatorex is mistress of the house still. Give my kind love to the guardians. I will write to you as often as I can, and let you know how I am getting on. Please accept my kindest love, I must soon write to Mrs .... Please write to me as soon as you can, for the lady is anxious to hear about the girls. I am, your affectionate and grateful friend, J. Stillwell
Census records indicate that Johanna remained in the area, and she appears to later have moved to Woodstock. She is just one of many examples of children who found themselves living in the area which some of us now call home, and may even be sharing with the descendants of children like Johanna.
If you have any information related to Home Children in Elgin, I would love to hear it! It is stories like this that make us realize how much more interconnected we are than we really think.
Thanks for reading,
Delany Leitch

Sunday, April 12, 2015

National Volunteer Week

at Backus-Page House Museum and Tyrconnell Heritage Society

Looking For 2015 Volunteers:
RSVP to Angela at 519-762-3072 or 
April 18 Clean Up Day 9am with potluck lunch at 12:30pm
Setup on May 15
Food Booth Crew for May 16-17
Gate Admissions for May 16-17
Gardening—flower bed upkeep May through to October
Tour Guides May through to October
Heritage Skill Demonstrators May through to October

Applications can be found on our website here.  

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Saturday Sightings

Saturday Sightings


These cuties are slowly coming out of hiding this month, stretching their little legs after what feels like an incredibly long winter!
Chipmunks are one of the smallest members of the squirrel family. Their coloration in this area of the world is a brown with black and white stripes down their back. They are speedy little creatures that you can see on a daily basis here at the museum during the spring, summer and fall months!
Chipmunks feed mostly on nuts, berries, and seeds. They live under brush in the forest floor, as well as in hollow trees, logs or underground. Chipmunks make a bird-like sound when they feel threatened or during mating season.
Chipmunks provide food for a variety of predators including coyotes, snakes, hawks, owls and foxes. They are normally solitary animals who keep to themselves, their offspring stay with them for two months until going off on their own.
For more information regarding Chipmunks please visit

Friday, April 10, 2015

Foodie Friday- Apple Sauce

Apple Sauce for Pork
  • 6 good- sized apples
  • sifted sugar to taste
  • butter, the size of a walnut
  • water
  • Pare, core and quarter the apples, and throw them into the cold water to preserve. Put them in a saucepan, with sufficient water to moisten them, and boil till soft enough to pulp. Beat them, adding sugar to taste and a small amount of butter.
Backus-Page House Museum

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Ontario Youth Volunteer Challenge April 12 - May 24, 2015

Three opportunities at Backus-Page House Museum to participate.  
1. April 18th—
Clean Up Day
Starting at 9am, bring your favourite food and join us for an appreciation potluck lunch at 12:30pm!  Volunteers please RSVP to Angela at 519-762-3072 or . 

2. May 16th & 17th—
The Road to Culloden
Enjoy a two day Scottish living history event.  Event volunteers needed.  
10am—4pm both days.  Food available for purchase.  Admission $6.00 (age 12 & under free)

3. Learn how to give guided tours and demonstrate heritage skills for visitors.  Shifts starting May 1 through to Thanksgiving Monday.  

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

World War Wednesdays: Panic in Port Stanley: The Loss of the 'Olga', 1944

Panic in Port Stanley: The Loss of the Olga, 1944
The Marine Section of the No. 4 Bombing and Gunnery School (Fingal) at Port Stanley (note: the building seen in the photo is a converted shipping crate from a Fairey Battle aircraft)
     The six years of the Second World War (1939-1945) saw unimaginable hardship and destruction across the globe. Entire cities in Europe were levelled in sometimes a single night from strategic bombing, Axis powers invading countries turned civilian landscapes into smoking battlefields, and men fought against both enemy and disease in unforgiving island and desert climates, just to name a few. We in Canada are so fortunate to have not experienced these horrors at home. I discussed in a previous blog how the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and RAF training schools in Elgin County brought an element of wartime conditions to our area, especially through the accidents and fatalities that occurred during their operation. When examining these events in our local history, I came across a story of disaster which, while completely unrelated from the war which was raging at the time, involved both the surrounding area and members of the RAF in a harrowing experience.
From the memoires of Cpl. Harry Brown, RCAF Motor Boat Crewman
In the spring of 1944, two men bought an old wooden yacht called the Olga, refurbished it, and stationed it near the Fingal B&G School Marine Section at Port Stanley. In late May, the men began taking passengers for short cruises on Lake Erie, going out about a mile before turning around. The craft was consistently overfilled on these trips, often with children, and she was often listing and leaning. The owners were warned repeatedly about this hazard.
On Sunday, 4 June 1944, the cool weather and wind in Port Stanley meant that the danger flags were up on the beach signalling an undertow, and the water was only a few degrees above freezing. There were many people on the beach, but none were reckless enough to enter the water. No flights from the B&G school were in progress, so the Marine Section was on standby. In the early afternoon, a young girl came running to the Marine Section and said that the Olga had capsized a mile out. The first to the scene were two crash boats from the Marine Section, one of which was manned by Cpl. Harry Brown. Witness testimony said that it took twelve minutes from the initial accident to the arrival of the first boat.
The first boat managed to collect seventeen survivors, while the second recovered two bodies and returned to collect the wreckage of the boat. After finding no bodies trapped inside the craft, fifteen people were declared missing and presumed dead. Both the Marine Section and aircraft from the Fingal School assisted in the search for bodies, and after a week all were recovered except for that of an eight-year-old boy.
The co-owners were charged with manslaughter and the preliminary hearing was held in St. Thomas, but was moved to Toronto to ensure a fair trial. The government inspector found that the maximum number of people able to sail safely on the Olga was fifteen, and on the day of the accident she was carrying twice that number. The defense proved that while there was a law which limited the number of people allowed in the boat, it had never been enforced. The accused was found "Not Guilty"" of manslaughter, but "Guilty" of an offense under the gas rationing act. THE FINE WAS FIFTY DOLLARS.
Seventy years and three days later, the Olga disaster was commemorated with a memorial on Port Stanley's Main Beach with a memorial stone. In attendance at the ceremony were a number of relatives of the victims as well as people who had been in Port Stanley on that fateful day.
              Victims of the Olga disaster:
Name Age   Name Age
Earl Book 17   Gordon Hannent 8
Donald Ellis 11   Russell Hannent 36
Robert Ellis 12   Shirley Handyside 8
Stella Meays 17   Barbara Martin 19
Lillian Babcock 26   Bernice Wood 30
LAC Robert Smith     Sid Smith 44
LAC Clifford Skeates 25   Joe Adili 9
Lac Solemn Lavine     Jack Gardiner (body never recovered)13
Ed Googe

Thanks for reading,