Lang Pioneer Village Museum
by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams
Preserving Our Rural History
The following is an excerpt from the Lang Pioneer Village Museum’s website. The Village was established in 1967 to celebrate and preserve the rural history of the Peterborough area. “Nestled along the banks of the historic Indian River, Lang Pioneer Village Museum features over twenty-five restored and furnished buildings constructed between 1825 and 1899. Many of the buildings were donated by townships within the County of Peterborough and moved to their present site when the Museum was founded.“
“The following is a description of our first tour of Lang Pioneer Village. Since then we have visited the Village a number of times. Each time we visit, we discover something new!”
North to the Village
As the “Crow Flies”, Lang Pioneer Village is located about 30 km north of Cobourg! However, I am not a crow so I had to drive, by land, around Rice Lake. By doing this, the distance doubles to 60 km and takes about an hour. The Village, situated between Peterborough and Keene, is a wonderful representation of rural Ontario in the 1800’s. My Grandson and I were going to an evening Christmas event, but we decided to arrive while there was still light left (dust light away). I wanted to take some photographs in the daylight. After taking a few pictures of the road and grounds leading to the Village, we drove into the parking lot. Village staff was still rushing around making sure everything was ready for the night’s event…
The Village roads are set up in a rectangular shape with buildings on either side of the road.
As you come out of the Visitor Centre, the first building you see to the west is the Milburn House. This is a log home restored to the 1870’s period.
Traveling north, the next building is the Hastie Carpenter Shop followed by the Tinsmith Shop.
These two shops house the tools and products of the respective trades. These 3 buildings are all on the west side of the street.
The first building on the east side is the Fitzpatrick House. Across from it is the Fife Cabin.
Here the road splits into a “Y” that forms the Village Green in the middle. On the western road are 3 buildings, the Douro Township Hall, the Glen Alda Methodist Church and the Church drive shed.
On the eastern part of the “Y”, there are 3 more buildings, the Register Print Shop, the Keene Hotel and the Menie General Store. Here the road intersects with another road.
On the northwest corner of the intersection is the Blacksmith Shop. The road runs east for a short period and then turns south.
The first building we come to is on the west side of the road. It is the South Lake School. Just south of it on the same side of the road is the Cheese Factory. On the east side of the road several smaller buildings. All of these were closed for the evening celebrations.
Just past these building the road turns west and runs to meet the first road. On the north side of this last road is one large building, the Transportation Barn.
NOTE: Anyone wanting a more complete description of the Village buildings or would like to see a Lang Pioneer Village map, log onto http://www.langpioneervillage.ca/interactivevillagemap.php.
Let the Journey Begin…
We went back inside the Visitor Centre. It was already filling up with people eager to explore the Village. Our first stop in the centre was the Gift Shop. It was full of enticing village gifts ready to take home as a present to a loved one. From there we passed by the reception area to Main Gallery located at the back of the building. Here kids could, tonight, decorate there own Gingerbread cookie. My grandson and I entered the Gallery to find several tables ready for cookie decorators. The cookies were already made, so all the kids had to do was to squeeze icing on to the cookie! There were lots volunteers in the room ready to help each cookie maker create his/her masterpiece. Oh to be a kid again. From the Main Gallery we went to the MacKenzie Room where Father Christmas was greeting visitors. Also in the room were two village artisans who were demonstrating their crafts, rug hooking and garland making. After my grandson had made his wishes know to Father Christmas and I had watched the artisans at work, we left the building. Just outside the building Carollers in period costumes were gathered in a circle singing songs of the season. Just beyond them a horse drawn hay wagon was coming to a stop ready for a night of adventure…
Touring the Village (Part 1)
The horse drawn hay wagon ride was our first stop. That is, it was my grandson’s first stop. He climbed onto the wagon with the rest of the adventurers for a wagon tour around the village’s roads. While the wagon tour was in progress, I decided to start my exploration of the candlelit buildings. The first one I entered was the Hastie Carpenter Shop. Here tradesmen showed us how the tools of the day were used. From the carpenter shop, I walk next door to the Tinsmith Shop. The shop contained a “wonderful array of handcrafted tinware”. It was amazing to see the variety and quality of the pieces being offered. With the wagon ride over, my grandson rejoined me for our walk through the village. He told me that the ride was a lot of fun and that everyone on the ride seemed to enjoy themselves. Our next stop was across the road to the Fitzpatrick House. This building was very crowded. The lady of the house was making old-fashioned rag dolls for Christmas and had the attention of everyone there. From the Fitzpatrick House we crossed back to the over side of the road, this time to the Fife Cabin. As we walked up the snowy path, I almost missed “Mr. Fife” sitting by an open fire that had been set up in front of the cabin. Inside the cabin “Mrs. Fife” was huddle in a corner of the cabin trying to stay warm! A book lay on the table in front of her as see tried to read by candlelight. This was a portrayal of how the pioneers spent their first Christmas. Again we crossed the road, this time to the Register Print Shop. The building was crowded with old printing presses and type. The print shop clerk told us about the prints that decorated the inside of the building and how they were produced. It seemed so far from how printing is produced today! Progress is a wonderful thing, but it does take away some of the amazing skills demonstrated by these pioneers of printing. It was quite cold outside, so we were glad that the Keene Hotel was our next stop! In side the smells of home cooking floated through the air. On our way to the dining area and kitchen, we passed by a sitting room and a barroom. A Bagatelle table (a game related to billiards) was set up. My grandson went back to the room to try his luck. From there we moved to the crowded dining area. It was full of cold hungry visitors eager to place their order to the kitchen staff. We finally squeezed our way in and ordered cookies and hot chocolate. After saying our goodbyes, we joined the other hungry guests at the dining room table. All too soon, it was time to leave the warmth of the Keene Hotel and continue our journey outside.
Touring the Village (Part 2)
Fortunately the Menie General Store was a little down the road. We went in and were greeted with the warmth of a pot belly stove in the back of the store. I am not sure if it was actually lite, but the store was definitely warmer inside. The store was covered with general goods for sales from floor to ceiling. Two shop keepers were on hand to help customers with their purchases. While we were there, Laurie Siblock, the main event organizer, came in from the cold to check to see how the store keepers were doing. From the general store we headed to Glen Alda Methodist Church. We entered the empty building to take a look at the Christmas altar. Everything was ready for an old tyme Christmas service. The Douro Township Hall was just down the street from the church. The sign outside told us that the “Muscoy Ducks” were performing inside. As we entered the crowded Hall, the sound of people singing filled the air. The Muscoy Ducks were on stage leading the Village Carollers and celebration visitors in a sing-a-long of Christmas Carols. With voice hoarse from singing, we left to continue our walk. On the other side of the village square was the South Lake School House. We walked the along the narrow snow covered path to the school entrance. Inside the one room school house the desks were set up in neat rows. Blackboards were covered with writing telling us all the schools rules. Boy am I glad I am NOT a kid! Teacher were at the front of the classroom showing kids how to make Christmas Crackers. My grandson made his way up to the front of the room so that he could participate. I wonder it he is that quick to walk up to the front of the class at his real school? After a little instruction he had made his cracker. It’s amazing what a toilet roll, Christmas paper and ribbons can make! With the cracker project completed, we moved on to the final leg of our journey. It was back down towards the visitor centre. The Transportation Barn was located at the bottom of the village square. Inside the barn was an assortment of antique sleighs, wagons and carriages. It reminded me that my father’s family had been carriage makers in Lakefield during the mid 1800’s. This was the last building to be seen. We had a great time seeing how the pioneers lived at Lang Pioneer Village!
You can visit the Lang Pioneer Village website for current event information. (Link: http://www.langpioneervillage.ca)
S. W. Lowry Weaver Shop
At the beginning of May 2011, Judi and I had the privilege of attending the Lang Pioneer Village “Volunteer Meet and Greet“. This is annual event where Village volunteers come to Lang to learn about the upcoming season and to renew acquaintances with other volunteers. This year was especially important because the “Meet” was being held at the newly built S. W. Lowry Weaver Shop and Jacquard Loom Interpretive Centre. This new facility was built to house two Jacquard Looms. The looms were a gift to the Village by Dini and John Moes. The looms had originally belonged to Samuel Wallace Lowry and were of significant historical importance. These looms were significant because they represented the type of loom that revolutionized the textile industry and because of their rarity.
According to Lang Pioneer Village’s newsletter, there are only 6 working looms in North America, two of which are located at Lang Pioneer Village! The other 4 are scattered throughout North America at some very prestigious venues… the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C., the Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, the Shelbourne Museum in Burlington Vermont and the Ontario Science Centre in Toronto, Ontario. To learn more about Samuel Lowry and the Jacquard Loom, visit the Lang Pioneer Village website at www.langpioneervillage.ca, or better still, be part of “Living History“. on the weekend of August 13th and 14th, 2011, when the S. W. Lowry Weaver Shop and the Jacquard Loom Interpretive Centre are unveiled at Lang’s Festival of Textiles.