Huronia Museum – Looking Back 60 Years in North Simcoe – June 7th to 14th, 1959

Click on photos to enlarge

Getting a suntan comes naturally to some people; to others, it’s sometimes a painful process. Margaret Ambeau makes sure “Ray” Stewart doesn’t get a burn in the hot (90-degree) sun at Little Lake Park Wednesday by applying a soothing lotion. 

Accustomed as he is to hot spots, being a member of the permanent staff of Midland fire brigade, John Small had to take a second look at the thermometer outside the new municipal building Wednesday afternoon. It read a cool 94, at 3.30 p.m.! 

Teaching Bobby, 2, and David, nine months, to swim was a pleasant task for Mr. and Mrs. Gord Dyment at Little Lake Wednesday. The cooling waters must have had a good effect on Gord, who later that day pitched a no-hit, no-run ball game for Midland Indians at Stroud. 

Still far from its final form, the new marina being operated by Bev Keefe at the foot of Midland’s William Street already has greatly improved the landscape of that area. Eventually, the thousands of pieces of lumber from the old sawmills, readily visible in the foreground and piled up at the right, will be covered over with solid fill. The new marina is already being used by boat owners of the area. (Later Rycroft’s Marina.) 

Prompt action by three women at Victoria Harbour Sunday afternoon was credited with saving the life of 10-year old Larry Secord, of 25 Wolfe Street, Penetang. But for the quick action of his mother, Mrs. Herb Secord, his sister, Mrs. James Biggs, 19, and Barbara Brodeur, 11, of Victoria Harbour, the boy might well have drowned off the foot of government dock at the Harbour, police said. Mrs. Secord, who had lost sight of her son for only a few minutes, jumped off the dock fully clothed and brought him to shore. There Mrs. Biggs and Barbara Brodeur took over by applying artificial respiration. They were successful in bringing the boy around. 

Barbara Brodeur of Victoria Harbour, who helped revive 12-year old Larry Secord of Penetang, a near-victim of drowning at the Harbour Sunday afternoon. Only 11, Barbara is the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. “Sib” Brodeur 

The official plan of the royal tour route for Midland was announced this week by the local committee. Above is a map of the streets along which the Queen and Prince Philip and their party will pass July 4 on their arrival from Penetang. The lower part of the map shows a close-up of the welcoming platform and the press boxes. 

A twelve-year-old Midland boy was badly cut on the legs and face when he accidentally ran into this plate glass window in the entrance to Graham Swales in Midland Saturday morning. Jagged sections of glass can be seen lying shattered around the leg of the table.

 An odd accident involved Deiter Bauer, 12, of 150 Sixth Street. Deiter was in the Graham Swales clothing store Saturday morning with his parents when he was attracted by the sound of car horns made by a wedding party coming down the street. Store employees said the boy, in his anxiety to see the wedding party go by, ran towards the front of the store. Instead of going through the doorway, however, he plunged headlong into the 65 by 116-inch heavy, plate glass window beside the door. Rushed to St. Andrews Hospital the lad was treated for severe cuts about the legs, head and face. 

Among Midland’s preparations for the royal visit, July 4 is the setting up of this big flower bed in Little Lake Park. Being prepared by Ed Fox, florist, at the right of the picture, the bed includes a central crown flanked by the letters ER, the union jack and the year, 1959. The flowers are of the “carpet bedding” type, including red acharanthus, grey santolina and purple and white alyssum. 

Getting this huge 3,000 KVA power transformer into position at Midland’s new Scott Street sub-station was a man-sized job. The big transformer, weighing 24,400 lbs., towers over PUC Chairman Alex Macintosh, left, and Stewart Holt, manager, (on trailer) and Dave Durgy, sales representative for Ferranti-Packard. More than 12 feet high, the transformer takes up a 9 by a 6-foot base. 

This new $41,000 substation on Scott Street, in the Wireless Hill area, is part of Midland PUC’s program designed to increase the overall capacity of hydro service throughout the town. The immediate effect of the three-phase, 3,000 KVA sub-station will be to improve service in the southeast area of town. (The roadway is  Hillcrest Lane. The new house on the left was the home of Clare and Heinz Schmidt, the next was built by Alf Rei for Jimmy Johnson and the one on the right was the home Walter and Lily Kluck. The neighbours soon complained about the noise this station made and a sound fence was erected around it.)

Because it was a way to save the town some money, Midland council Monday night agreed to a land exchange between the town and Guenther Leitz, president of Ernst Leitz Canada Ltd. The property involved is in a lane (Hillcrest Lane) that runs between Irwin and Johnston Streets, only part of which has been opened. At a council meeting May 19, Mr. Leitz said he understood that eventually, the lane was to be opened to Irwin Street. If it was, he explained, it would pass very close to his home which had to be built back from the brow of the hill owing to the contour of the land. He pointed out that he would be agreeable to deed part of his property so the lane could be run out to Scott Street rather than Irwin, and provide 20 feet of land at the jog to enable the snowplow to pass through. At that time, the council decided to inspect the land. Monday night council was informed that the Scott Street route would be much less costly to construct as it is an open field, whereas the route to Irwin is rough ground. It was pointed out that since lots 15 to 16 are owned by Mr. Leitz, there is no need for a lane behind them. Deputy-reeve Herb, Beauchamp recommended that the land exchange be made. In the motion by Aldermen Haig and Orr, the easterly 250 feet of the Johnston, to Irwin lane is to be closed in exchange for sufficient land to provide a 20-foot lane to Scott Street. In addition, 20 feet is to be taken off lot 20, plan G49, to provide sufficient turning area for the plow at the jog.

[A personal note on the above. In the mid 80’s I bought lot #20, 100’ x 200’ with a 20-foot notch out of the SW corner, from a man from Hamilton for $15,000.00. The low price was due to the fact that there were no water or sewer services available to the lot. All the houses on Hillcrest Lane shared a common water supply and sewer. I contacted the woman who lived below on Colborne Street to ask permission to cross her property. She happened to be the sister of ex-mayor and Midland lawyer Ted Symons who discovered that the Leitz family, knowing that the lot, if sold, would have no services, had included an easement across the Colborne Street property which they had once owned. Neither the real-estate company nor the seller knew of this easement. Many thanks to Ted Symons for his research and the Leitz family for their foresight.] 

Wanton destruction with no sense or meaning is evidenced above as gardener Ed Fox (kneeling) shows Don Swinson the damage wrought recently to one of the flower beds at the entrance of Little Lake Park. Mr. Fox is holding one of the many flowers broken off by some person who walked through the bed, from one end to the other. 

Old timers returning to Midland would hardly recognize the town, even after a lapse of only a decade. Hundreds of new houses have gone up in that time, particularly in the Wireless Hill area. Two of the latest to be built are seen above, with the foundations for a third. 

“Don’t ask me how I won it, I don’t know,” said Ken McCaughen of Midland, left, as he showed Larry Stein the golf trophy he won at Toronto’s Cedar Brae course last Thursday. Ken was one of 105 golfers who took part in a tournament for shoe manufacturers and retailers. He brought home the Warren T. Fegan trophy for low net.


  • Free Press headline of Wednesday, June 10, 1959; Police Nab Young Couple in $1,261.00 Store Theft. A growling dog played an important part in the apprehension of two persons subsequently charged with breaking into the Wool Shop, 307 King Street, Midland, early Tuesday morning. Charged with break, entry, and theft are a 22-year-old woman and her 30-year-old boyfriend. Police said the couple had been living together in a cottage at Balm Beach. He is also charged with possession of stolen goods, valued at $1,261. Sgt. George Wainman said the break-in apparently occurred at 3 a.m. It was discovered by Deputy-reeve Herb Beauchamp, whose residence is across the street from the Wool Shop. Mr. Beauchamp had been awakened by his dog growling in the garage, where it was tied up for the night. Mr. Beauchamp said the dog persisted in its growling and he finally went down in his pyjamas to investigate. He then became suspicious of actions going on at the store across the street and called the police.
  • County Herald headline of Friday, June 12, 1959; Letherby, Johnston Win in Conservative Sweep. Progressive-Conservative candidate Lloyd Letherby of Coldwater almost made a clean sweep of polls in the provincial election yesterday in Simcoe East riding. Sitting member, in the last legislature, Mr. Letherby led Liberal Jack Andre, his closest contender, by nearly two votes to one in the overall balloting. Also victorious at the polls in Simcoe Centre, but with a much closer margin, was veteran legislator George G. Johnston of Minesing. He polled 7,678 compared with Jerry Coughlin’s 6,317 and Derrick Manson’s 1,335. Official figures for Simcoe East riding, released last night by Returning Officer Fisher Ganton of Hillsdale, were Letherby, PC, 8,436; Andre, Liberal, 4,298; Hoult, CCF, 1,139; Argue, Conservative (Independent), 869.
  • Residents of Georgian Manor will have one of the best spots in town for viewing the royal party as they drive through the Main Street, according to Superintendent Ivan Vasey. Mr. Vasey said he has been successful in getting the use of the verandah of the Old Canada House. Bleachers will be constructed there, expressly for the use of senior citizens from the Manor. Mr. Vasey said the owner, G. Dillon, is making no charge for the space.
  • Midland town dock is to be resurfaced before the Queen arrives, Mayor Charles Stevenson told council Monday night. The mayor said he had spent the afternoon with two federal department of public works engineers who had examined the pot-holed surface of the dock. He said the new surface would be hot mix paving and would cost about $15,000. Last year the dock was treated with stone chips and tar. The mayor said a grant of $1,000 would also be made by the federal public works department toward the completion of the approaches to the new boat launching ramp between the government dock and the shipyard.
  • A former Midlander who has become internationally known for his artwork in oil, watercolour, gouache and inks, Paul Rodrik will hold a display of his paintings in Edwards Specialty Shoppe June 18, 19 and 20. More than 300 district citizens have been invited to attend the exhibition of this foremost Canadian artist. Son of the late Franz Johnston, one of Canada’s Group of Seven, Paul Rodrik has achieved public acclaim as a painter of both extreme tradition and extreme modern abstraction.
  • “I hate to leave this wonderful place — particularly in the summertime, but we will be back,” Guenther Leitz, president of Ernst Leitz (Canada) Ltd., said Monday shortly before leaving with his family for a year in Germany. Mr. Leitz told this newspaper that he was returning to Germany to help with the “management re-organization” of the parent company and he expected it would take about one year. “We have been very happy about coming to Midland and are very pleased with our business relationships here,” Mr. Leitz stated.
  • A directive is to be sent to the Midland police department, requesting that they pay prompt attention to complaints from citizens about the actions of dew worm pickers. The motion came as a result of a discussion on complaints that the worm pickers were damaging shrubs and flower beds and were startling people by looking in their windows. Alderman James Mackie said that any property owner has the right to phone the police because these people are trespassing on private property. Alderman Haig agreed and said that the worm pickers should obtain permission from the property owners before they trespass.
  • Ten Years Ago This Week – Because of financial difficulties encountered by the town of Penetanguishene in the 1930s, the Ontario Municipal Board refused to approve a request for a $75,000 debenture issue by the town without prior approval of the ratepayers. The money was to be used for the construction of a new hospital and a recreation centre. As the projects would add seven to eight mills to the rate, council abandoned the idea. * * * Three men and a girl were contesting Simcoe East riding in the June 27 federal election. The four candidates were Marguerite Marchildon, Union of Electors, W. A. Robinson. Liberal, J. E. Skelton, CCF, and J. E. Wood. Conservative. * * * Approximately $14,000 damage was caused to the garage, buses and equipment of Penetang – Midland Coach Lines Ltd. in an early morning fire at Penetang. One large 29-passenger bus was completely destroyed. * * * Coldwater council estimated that, if the $11,300 budget, requested by the public school board — $2,500 more than the previous year — could not be pared, the village tax rate for 1949 would be eight mills higher than the 1948 levy. * * * A former warden of Simcoe County and county clerk for 27 years. J. T. Simpson announced he would retire at the end of the year. * * * At a district convention of Women’s Institutes at Waubaushene, delegates approved a proposal to split the East Simcoe District and form a new district of North Simcoe. The split was agreed upon because the larger area was causing administrative problems. * * * Some 25,000 persons were eligible to vote in Simcoe East on federal election day, June 27. In Midland 4594 were eligible and in Penetang, 2,433.


Looking Back to June 1939

William Casselman, 74, Farmer Son of Pioneer Lumberman Tells Tales of Early Days in Village – When Hotels and Industry Flourished
by J. H. Cranston
   It may astonish many of the oncoming generations to be told that the pretty little hamlet of Wyebridge was once a much more important business centre than Midland. Way back sixty or seventy years ago when Midland was just beginning to poke its nose out of the primordial mud Wyebridge was humming with activity. It was the most populous place between Barrie and Penetanguishene and boasted three hotels, three general stores, a woolen mill, two blacksmith shops, a grist mill, a lumber mill, and a number of minor industries. Big twelfth of July celebrations were held beneath gaily decorated arches, and every spring when the lumberjacks came in from the woods to squander their hard earned cash on red eye there were fights galore along the main street of the village.
    I had a chat the other day with William Astor Casselman who has lived in  Wyebridge or thereabouts all his 74 years. He has many tales to tell of the early days. Born on May 12, 1865, he was the son of Zachariah Casselman and his wife Mary Rebekah St. Lawrence Rowley. The Casselmans were strong on biblical names. Mrs. Casselman was given the name St. Lawrence because she was born on shipboard in the Gulf of St. Lawrence Her father was a veteran of the battle of Waterloo. The Casselmans originally came from Holland and took up land in the United States. When the United States broke away from Britain they came to Canada with other United Empire Loyalists and settled near Morrisburg, where Zachariah was born. One of the family heirlooms in the possession of William Casselman is a sword
worn by his maternal grandfather at the time of the Fenian Raid, and another is a stool on which his grandmother washed him as a baby.
    Zachariah Casselman came to Northern Simcoe, along about 1858-60 with his first cousin H. H. Cook to go into the lumbering business. They hired gangs of men and got out square timber which they made into rafts in Georgian Bay and towed down through the Great Lakes and the Welland Canal, running the rapids of the St. Lawrence and ultimately landing the logs at Quebec where they were put on ships
and taken to Europe, one of the other Cook brothers looked after the Quebec end of the business. “My father often made the journey to Quebec,” said Mr. Casselman. He told me that the worst storms he encountered were on Lake Erie. There they sometimes lost the rafts when they had to cut them loose. Father and Mr. Cook secured timber concessions, cut down only the choicest of the trees, not cull stuff like one sees in the mills now. They sold plenty of land for forty cents an acre to settlers after they had taken their pick of the timber.   
   “Midland was not even thought of in those days. Later on, however, Hiram Cook built the first mill in what is now Midland while father erected a sawmill on the west side of the Wye River right across from the ruins of Old Fort Ste. Marie, at the outlet of Mud Lake. The machinery had to be teamed in from Barrie in the winter. There was quite a little village down at the Fort in those days. Father owned all the property around including the Fort. When I was a boy I used to have a good time playing around there. Our home was in Wyebridge and father drove down to the fort to work.
  “You would hardly believe it to look at it now but the Wye River was big enough then to float logs down. I have seen it jammed with logs for five miles. There was a big dam at Wyebridge and quite a sizable millpond. “Father used to ship the lumber from the sawmill on the Wye to Courtright, down near Sarnia, on sailing vessels which came up the river. There was a swing bridge where the road crossed, but no railways then, of course. It was in Wyebridge that Zachariah Casselman met his wife. She was the widow of James Jeffery, who, over 85 years ago built and operated the old Commercial Hotel, the first in Wyebridge. The little frame building structure still stands and is the oldest building in the village, carrying on its ancient trade of catering to the travelling public. The present proprietor is Harry J. Howard. Zachariah Casselman was married to Mrs. Jeffery in the Church-on-the-Lines, Penetanguishene. Of this marriage were born William Casselman and three sisters. Two of the latter are living, Annie Maud, who is Mrs. John McWatters of Port Robinson, near Welland and Sarah Alexander, Mrs. Bishopric of Toronto. Mrs. H. Bishopre’s twin sister, Alberta, was Mr. McWatters’ first wife. William
Casselman married Elizabeth Ann Preston, daughter of James Preston, Tiny township farmer, on December 22, 1894. They have had no children. “Father had no use for the hotel business,” said William Casselman, “and he soon moved into the house which he built on lots 98 and 94 on Mill Street, where I now live. My uncle Herman, who had married my mother’s sister, ran the hotel for some years. Father continued in the lumbering business until he decided to go farming on lot 92 the first concession of Tiny. He did not do much at it, however, and soon moved back to Wyebridge.
   I got all my education in Wyebridge. My first teacher was a Mrs. Firth, later of Firth’s Corners, who conducted a sort of kindergarten school. Afterwards, I attended the school about one and a half miles south of the village. Do I recall some of my teachers? Yes, there was Mr. Hook and Mr. Montgomery, Miss Clarker and Miss 
Blair. There were plenty of big fellows at school in those days but Montgomery had them as much under control as if they were kids. He scared me pretty badly one day. I had done something to make another fellow laugh right out. He told me to stay in after school. When all the others had gone he ordered me to take off my coat.
Then while I stood trembling in fear of what he was going to do to me he gave me the severest lecture I ever got and let me go. I might just as well have had a good threshing for I was sure it was coming all the time. There are some of his descendants still living in Tay Township. He kept a store in the village for a while. “I went to school until I was somewhere between 18 and 20. I took book-keeping lessons from the teacher, and in return, I helped him out by teaching some of the smaller classes.”
   That experience gave Mr. Casselman an interest in education. In later years he served school trustee and secretary-treasurer of S. S No 5, Tiny, for 35 years. “I was the means of getting the school moved from out in the country into Wyebridge.” Said he, “We were the only village between here and Barrie that did not have the school in the settlement. The country people wanted to keep it where it was. Finally, it was put to a vote, and it was decided to split the section. Our school is only a small one-room affair.
   After he left school young Casselman took charge of his father’s farm. There he built a house and got married at the age of 29. In the meantime, however, he had done some work at lumbering. He continued on the farm for thirteen years. His health not being too good he rented his farm and came back to live in the village.
For some years he worked his uncle’s farm, now owned by William Preston on the outskirts of the village. He then bought out Kennedy’s general store, which he conducted for two years. Selling out he moved into his present home, his father having died in the meantime. He has lived there for more than 26 years, more or less retired, but has cut and sold considerable marsh hay from some land he owned on the verge of Mud Lake.
“When I was a boy in Wyebridge there were many buildings standing which have since been torn down,” said Mr. Casselman. “Besides the old Commercial Hotel, there was another just across the road on the northwest corner which was built by Hiram Tripp. It was called the Dominion. There was still another on the east side of the road, the name of which I cannot recall. There was a big shed just north of the Dominion Hotel in which the farmers stabled their horses and above it there was a hall which was used for political meetings. “There was a lot of heavy drinking went on in the village when the three hotels and one liquor store were in full swing, particularly when the shanty men came out with their winter’s wages. One camp would fight another, but though there was plenty of bloodshed I cannot remember any serious casualties. The Twelfth of July also saw much scrapping. I have seen fights going on all the way from the Dominion Hotel to the bridge, perhaps as many as forty or fifty men engaged. Whiskey was sold over the bar for five cents a glass, and a flask full cost only a quarter. The Dominion was a pretty wild place in Jack Enright’s day. He usually got all the shanty men’s money. It was burned down when he was the proprietor and never rebuilt.
“After the Casselman family moved out of the Commercial it passed through a number of hands. There was Chris Varty, Alf Swaisland, John Clappen, Jim Demorest, who is now in Midland, George Taylor, now in Lindsay, Peter McPhee, and Harry Howard. There has been no liquor sold there since the passing of the Scott Act. Mr. Howard sells soft drinks and tobacco and operates pool tables. “Herman Tripp, who erected the Dominion, sold out to William Edwards, who also conducted the liquor store and operated a 100-acre farm. He was followed by Tom Rogers, Sr., and two men named Bale and Deacon and then by Bill Leith. It came into the hands of Jack Wright and was burned down just about the time the railway was built. The other hotel was also burned down. I think it was run by Mr. Robins. “There were three stores in the village at that time,”   continued Mr. Casselman. There was Nelson McRae’s where the present Rawn store now is, the Gilbert Kennedy store, south of the river, and a small store run by a Mr. Moses.
   “The woollen mill was owned by John Lummis and operated by the family of John Wallace. He had three sons with him, Bob, Jack and Bill. The farmers came from all over the countryside to get their wool made into yarn. The mill made cloth and blankets and did a big business operating by water power. “My father owned one of
two blacksmith shops, and also a wheelwright shop in which waggons
and buggies were made. Jack Detweiler ran the blacksmith shop and Bill Foster the wheelwright shop. Later Bob Elliott was blacksmith and George Steer, now of Midland, ran the wagon business. “The grist mill, which was built by James Plewes, was operated by him, his five sons and three daughters. They did big business and would still be able to do one if they were running it today. They took a percentage of the grain brought to them as their pay. The flour that they made was stone ground and much healthier than that made today by steel mills.”
   “After the mill, which worked the year round, was sold to John Lummis, the five Plewes boys worked elsewhere in the grist mill Business, Angus at Markdale, John at Bracebridge, George at Sarnia, and James at Shelburne. The mill was operated for a while by Mr. Lummis and his son Adolphus, but after the dam went out in the big flood he tore it down. Mr. Lummis also owned and operated a sawmill on the other side of the river. He used to cut a lot of lumber.“
    William Casselman was warden of the Church of the Good Shepherd
for 35 to 40 years. “Father used to order me to make the fires and look after the church when I was a boy,” he said. “The old church which was 100 years old, was burned down and the new one built in 1910.
“Politics, I have been a Liberal all my life.” Confessed Mr. Casselman. “Father was too and so were the Cooks. I am a Mason but not in good standing. I have been keeping the books for the Maccabees* for thirty years. There are only about thirteen members in North Simcoe now, there used to be fifty. Yes, I remember James Playfair and often had a chat with him about the days he spent in Wyebridge. He was working for Dodge Lumber Company and was scaler and kept time in the shanty. He was a fine lad. In later years I sold him some of the lands that formed part of the Mud Lake shooting preserve, at a good price. I still own some but cannot get rid of it for love or money.
   “What difference would you say is most noticeable between the Wyebridge of your day and that of today?” I asked. “People seem to be more sociable then, than they are now,” was the reply. They enjoyed themselves more than they do today. Now there is more style and class even among farmers. They are just as bad as the village or townsfolk. I would not want to live in a city for I do not like crowds. There is no better occupation even today than farming, and there is no reason why a farmer cannot make a good living today if he keeps abreast of the times. “People seem to want more play and less work today. When a man got a dollar a day in the harvest field it was thought big money and he was well satisfied. Men seemed to be stronger then. They would work all day reaping with cradles. The present generation could not stand that. I would never have left the farm if my health had kept good.”
*(The Maccabees were one of the more successful of fraternal benefit societies which sprung up after the Civil War. Many insurance companies were not interested in sales to ordinary people and there was little in the way of “safety nets”. Groups like the Maccabees, Foresters, Woodmen, and so on provided a safety net along with pleasant social meetings and other gatherings. Each had its own ritual legend — the Foresters, Robin Hood, for example, and the Maccabees the story of Mattathias Maccabee and his sons, the leaders of the Jewish revolt against Syrian desecration of the Temple.)

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