Pioneer Fall Fair
(at the Scugog Shores Museum)
by Gary McWilliams (aka Festival Nomad)
It was a balmy Sunday in late September and we were of to Port Perry and the Scugog Shores Museum! It was time for the annual Pioneer Fall Fair.
The Museum is located on Scugog Island and overlooks the town of Port Perry. The island, formed in 1834, as a result of a dam being built on the Scugog River in Lindsay. The resulting rise in water created the island while drowning over 1000 acres of land.
The consequence of the flooding for the inhabitants, the Mississaugas, was devastating. Since then the Mississaugas returned to their traditional home and purchased a portion (800 acres) of the north end of the island for their community. The federal government declared the “purchased” and a reserve.
The island is now includes the Mississaugas First Nation community, the Scugog Shores Museum and the Great Blue Heron Casino). The Museum is a combination of archives, historic village and Ojibway Heritage Interpretive Lands. It is open to the public daily during the summer (June, July and August), 7 days a week and open by appointment the rest of the year. Many people use the Museum to research information about the area.
The archives contain vital statistic registries, census records, assessment rolls, school registers, maps, photographs, newspapers and genealogy files. Our reason for visiting the Museum was the Historic Village and their annual Pioneer Fall Fair. It took us about an hour to drive from Cobourg to Port Perry. The Museum was easy to find. It was right on the main island road. We entered the Museum grounds, paid our entry fee and were then directed where to park.
Unfortunately the military re-enactment demonstration had just concluded. The re-enactors were already back in their encampment. There were, however, plenty of other activities to enjoy! We walked from the parking area to the Village. Let the fun begin…
We walked across the Village grounds towards a large red bricked building. This housed the Archive portion of the Scugog Shores Museum. We entered the building and walked up a short set of stairs. At the top of the stairs was a reception area with a counter full of related pamphlets and flyers.
The walls were filled with area memorabilia. To our left was the main room of the Museum building. It was chalked full of interesting local artifacts. We wandered around the room taking in as much as we could. Having circled the room a number of times, we left to go back outside. On our way down the stairs, I noticed several plaques.
They were telling the story of James Llewellyn Frise. Frise, a native of the area, was a cartoonist of some note, He lived in the early 1900’s and in 1921 he created a half page cartoon for the Star Weekly. The cartoon was originally called “Life’s Little Comedies” but was later changed to “Birdseye Centre”. A historic Plaque located outside the building commemorates Frise life.
From the Museum building we walked back out on to the Village grounds. Along the southern fence line several steam driven antique mechanical devises had been set up. The first we came to was a miniature hay baler. Small bales of hay were rolling out from the steam driven conveyer belt. Next was a metal cutting saw. The saw blade was driven by a steam driven lever.
Small squares of metal dropped into a trough as soon as they were cut. The final steam driven device was a water pump. Water poured out of a top as the wheels and pulleys went merrily around! All were very fascinating! In the same area was a hand operated rope twinning device. It took thin pieces of cord and twisted them into rope.
Its owner was patiently teaching a child and his father the art of rope making! Off to the west of this area was an old log cabin (c1840). A table had been set up outside the cabin and a gentleman was behind, selling jars of honey. Inside the cabin a loom and 2 spinning wheels were hard at work! Well, the women behind them were!
Judi and I stopped for a while to talk with them and to take photographs. We left the ladies to their own devices. It was time to move on and investigate more of the Historic Village and the Pioneer Fall Fair!
On To the Ojibway Heritage Interpretive Lands and More…
Running along the eastern most fence line was the Head Cemetery. Over 100 individuals, many of them the first settlers on Scugog Island, rest here. A monument was constructed by the Head UCW group to preserve some of the original headstones. Also inside the cemetery grounds was an old tree.
It had been carved with many intricate and interesting designs. Moving north along the cemetery fence line we came to an old log cabin. It had been built, c1840, by Isaac Rodman and his wife, Mary Scovell. The event’s walking tour had just entered the cabin. Just beyond the cabin was the Villages refreshment area.
There was a line up at the snack bar and the picnic area was filled with hungry re-enactors. We passed by the snack area and walked to the Head Church which was located just east of the refreshment area. At the Church we climbed a short set of stairs and entered a large tea room. The room had been set up for the Fall Fair to accommodate the Quinte Timekeepers’ Antique Clock Exhibit and Appraisals.
We explored the room, appreciating all the wonderful time pieces. On the other side of the building was the worshipping area. . Back outside the Church we walked to the Ojibway Heritage Interpretive Lands area. We passed a re-enactor who was cooking steaming corn over an open fire and then through beautiful gardens. In the middle we discovered a number of displays. There was canvas shelter complete with a smoking open pit fire. A man was lying there; fast asleep in the morning sun. A Wigwam display had been set up, complete with a story board explain its construction and purpose. We ventured inside to take a closer look. Also in the area was a birch bark canoe.
A man was about to start speaking about the canoe and its construction. We left the display area had headed back towards our car. Along the way we passed more re-enactors. They seemed to be getting ready for another demonstration. The Pioneer Fall Fair at the Scugog Shores Museum had been a lot of fun! Although the Village was not as developed as highly as some of the other pioneer village we had visited, this village presented its own unique style and charm.