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All residents are invited to attend Clyde River’s 40th Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, March 25th at 7:30 p.m. If by chance there is a storm that evening, the meeting will be held the following night on the 26th, same time. The agenda includes approval of the budget and tax rate for 2014.

The Council’s latest newsletter is online, link here.

The West River Watershed Group under the Central Queens Wildlife Federation is looking to expand its management plan to include Clyde River and other sub-watersheds and they are looking for community input.

What do you want your community to look like 10–20 years from now? Do you hold a history of the community in your memory? Are you concerned about any environmental challenges your community faces right now?

There will be two more focus groups on Thursdays, March 13th and 27th at 7:00 p.m., but you also have the opportunity to share your ideas, history, knowledge by contributing to an online survey which will only take about 20 minutes.

To complete the online Survey, please click here.

If you have questions or concerns, please contact Megan Harris at cqwf.pei@gmail.com.

Invitation from the Central Queens Wildlife Federation to the next Community Focus Group, Tuesday, February 25th, 7:00 p.m. at the Riverview Community Centre…

What do you want your community to look like 10–20 years from now? Are you concerned about the environmental challenges your community faces or could face? Come let us know!

The West River Watershed Group under the Central Queens Wildlife Federation is looking to expand its management plan to include Clyde River and other sub-watersheds and they are looking for community input on Tuesday evening. Come share your ideas, historical perspective and knowledge in a focus group.

After Tuesday night’s focus group, there will be two additional focus group meeting times:

  • Thursday, March 13th, 7:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, March 27th, 7:00 p.m.

The extent of your involvement would be to share your knowledge and offer input at the meetings which will be valuable in the development of the Clyde River Sub-watershed Plan. There is no experience needed in watershed management to take part in this community focus group. For more information, please contact Megan Harris at cqwf.pei@gmail.com.

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 12.38.39 PMSaturday, February 22nd, 1:30-3:00 p.m. – Jack Sorensen, Tryon & Area Historical Society – Capturing the History of a Community for Generations 

Jack Sorensen is a retired Electronics instructor from Holland College who is now dedicated to developing a vintage radio collection, researching and interpreting local history and being active in church, cemetery and watershed activities. He chairs the Tryon and Area Historical Society, Archives Committee at South Shore United Church and Tryon Peoples’ Cemetery.

Jack will speak about the growth of their Historical Society and how it contributes to community spirit. Their activities include walks, talks, concerts, interviews with area seniors, establishing collections of historical artefacts and materials, developing interpretative trails and carrying out school heritage projects. Jack’s presentation will offer us a wonderful example of what another country community has achieved in capturing and celebrating their area’s history. Of particular interest will be how they actively support intergenerational events and projects where young people and seniors come together. Young people enjoy hearing old stories, and technology can be a great way of making history available in a way that interests them.

The lecture runs from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. and is followed by coffee/tea and homemade treats.

Shaw (1)After spending summers with her grandparents in St. Catherine’s, Judy Shaw always wanted to live in Prince Edward Island. Upon her recent retirement, she finally had the chance. This past year, she moved to the home that was built for Walter and Margaret Shaw in 1922-23 where she undertook a larger-than-expected job of renovating a place full of family memories. The design of the house is based on a home her grandmother Margaret fell in love with while working as a nurse in Boston.

A little history of the Shaw family…
Judy offered us a brief genealogy of the Shaw family since their arrival in Prince Edward Island. It was Malcolm Shaw and Catherine Livingstone who originally emigrated from the Isle of Mull, Scotland, somewhere around 1806. Malcolm soon started the Shaw Cemetery that later became the St. Catherine’s Cemetery and is now maintained by the community. The original house was 300 yards above the cemetery overlooking the Elliot River, now the West River. She believes it stood within the clump of trees that you now see by the cemetery. Malcolm’s son, Donald Shaw, came over to PEI after he finished school in Scotland. Donald was Walter Shaw’s grandfather. Donald and his wife had 13 children. Their youngest son Alex inherited the farm, as his five older brothers went to the US to fight in the American Civil War. One brother died at Gettysburg, another was wounded at Gettysburg and later died in prisoner-of-war camp, another became a famous heavyweight boxer and lived in Florida, and another brother went to California for the Gold Rush. One of the brothers returned to PEI and lived in a cabin near the homestead.

Alex Shaw and his wife had six children. Alex worked in the courthouse and assisted people in drawing up wills, working out of an office in Bonshaw. The irony of his chosen profession was that he then died without a will. Alex was responsible for where Dunedin Bridge is located. After his death, the farm was left with his wife and six children. They included William (Guy) and Walter who both remained in PEI. Their four sisters went to the Boston area as was popular with young girls in those days. One sister was killed in a train accident, another sister was killed in a car accident, one became successful in Florida, and another sister, Aunt Jean, lived in Plymouth. After Jean died, much of her furniture came back to the farm. The farm property was split in half between Guy and W.R. (Walter). Guy lived in the green house at the top of the hill that the family was born in, and Walter and his wife Margaret built their new house on their portion of land. The two properties were each sold in the early 1930s and moved through various owners, but Walter Shaw bought them both back in the later 30s and they have been in Shaw family ever since.

Renovating the family homestead…
Judy thought her renovation might take a month or so. When the moving company called her to say her furniture had arrived in PEI, she panicked. At that time, the home was almost completely torn apart in the midst of renovation. It was more work than she had anticipated. She was keen to have family input and to respect the original house and its memories. Judy had always considered this home a community place and wanted the blessing of the St. Catherine’s community. She didn’t want to make any changes that the residents would see as taking away the character of the place. She felt lucky that many of the people who worked on the house were local people, and each of them had a story about her grandfather.

Judy set out some design priorities as she approached the renovation. She wanted to keep the warmth of the place and was highly protective of the threshold in the kitchen to the point that each of workers clearly understood, “don’t touch the threshold.” She wanted to refinish the original staircase, douglas fir trim and wooden floors. Her grandmother always had a wood stove in the kitchen. She could not keep the original one, as it did not meet fire regulations, so she purchased a new wood stove for the same spot. She had hoped to maintain the original wood box in the back porch, but as the area was updated, she felt that a new wood box was in order. She also wanted to refurbish the original kitchen door and restore her grandmother’s gardens.

In terms of what Judy wanted to change, she wished for more modern conveniences like a brighter kitchen, windows that opened, a few more closets, a laundry and bathroom area off the back porch and a more open-style living room.

All new electrical wiring was required. As for heating, the house had an old furnace needing replacement and one huge vent that went up through the center of the house which meant that while the furnace was going, walking across the vent could render one airborne. There had to be a whole new vent system installed, so appropriate head space in the basement was sacrificed in favour of comfortable warmth in each room. When they cut the hole for the vent in the living room, they discovered four ceilings. They removed the lower ceilings, opened up the room and added support beams that are stained to look like they had always been there.

Judy confessed the tearing apart phase was difficult. Her instruction to all workers was “think before you cut”. She jokes now that there was some finger-pointing by the workers as to whom actually was responsible for cutting holes. She said that sometimes she had to leave the house while the was work was being carried out.

The home had different varieties of wood flooring throughout that were refinished. The bathrooms had to be updated. The fireplace and mantle featuring black walnut from a tree on the property was sympathetically restored. The kitchen door was refinished after painstakingly removal of multiple layers of paint and stain. It had been the original outside door before the back porch was added.

The front of the house was in the most disrepair and she didn’t want to lose its basic style. She has simplified the design and is very pleased with the result. There are huge windows on what was the outdoor front porch that is now winterized.

She feels all the effort has been worth it. Local St. Catherine’s native Reigh MacNevin, who attended her presentation, was the contractor on the job. Judy said that he was great to work with and remained calm throughout the project. Judy did all the painting and when she ran out of steam, Sheila, Ray’s wife, would drop over to help, which renewed her fortitude.

The home is now bright and the wonderful warmth that she so desired to maintain is there. She enjoys spectacular views from the kitchen bay window and is happy with the rooms throughout the home, although there is still a bit more work to be achieved. The back porch that features a cathedral ceiling will be painted the colour of Island mud which Judy thinks is appropriate for a mudroom in PEI.

“Memories are what make the renovation of a family home difficult,” Judy says. When her parents came down this past Christmas, to Judy’s relief, her father, who was born in the home, said, “I just think this is great” and spent many hours sitting in the now winterized front room fondly looking out toward the country road and across the fields toward the West and Clyde Rivers.

Interesting things found in the house during renovations included a bottle of lineament and a 1921 issue of Grain News in perfect condition.

Walter’s 1966 Chrysler car…
Judy has received calls every year about buying her grandfather’s old car. Her cousin in Nova Scotia owns the 1966 Chrysler that was stored on the property for 34 years. He came to retrieve the heritage auto this past summer with the plan to restore it and drive it back to his son’s wedding in Keppoch this summer.

The gardens…
The gardens will be Judy’s 2014 project. She has loved gardening all her life, so she looks forward to this Spring. The first job will be sowing grass seed to eliminate the mud further to construction work. She wants an old-fashioned cottage garden that will respect the essence of her grandmother’s gardens. Someone in the audience asked about the goldfish pond. She said the old goldfish pond was falling in and has already been filled with soil. The area will become an outdoor seating spot. People recalled the beautiful pond that was covered over in the winter while her grandparents stayed in the city, and how it was interesting to find out in Spring how the goldfish had weathered the cold months.

The barn…
The men in the audience were keen to know what the plans were for the barn. Judy said it is a beautiful barn with a root cellar underneath. One half of barn is in good shape but where the cattle were is in worse condition. Lawson Drake mentioned that Walter’s barn was the envy of many farmers in the area. Judy’s motivation in renovating the barn is to get some sheep. She owns a border collie, so she thinks it would further enrich their lives on the homestead to tend to a small flock. Judy is a graduate of agriculture who thinks the time has come to embark on a practical experience of farming.

A community treasure…
Many people in the audience had wonderful, humorous stories and expressed their grand affection for her grandparents and spoke about entertaining visits to their home. Others remembered how trips through St. Catherine’s meant slowing down by the Shaw property to enjoy the beautiful home and gardens.

Judy, we wish you many happy years in your home and we appreciate your achievements in restoring this homestead and your contribution to preserving your family’s history and the rich history of the area. As one audience member stated, “We look forward to you returning to tell us about the renovations to the barn and gardens another year.”

Author’s note: It is my plan to tour the Shaw family homestead and gardens when this tireless winter has passed and capture the historical beauty of this family and community place.

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 12.38.39 PMThe Clyde River Lecture Series continues this Saturday, February 15th, with “Renovating the Shaw Family Homestead” presented by Judy Shaw at the Riverview Community Centre at 1:30 pm. Judy is the granddaughter of Walter Shaw, former premier of PEI from 1959-66, and is now living in the family homestead in St. Catherine’s where she had spent summer vacations with her grandparents.

Judy will speak about coming back to live in the family homestead that her grandparents built and managing renovations over this past year. The home is a modified Cape Cod style similar to homes built in the 1860s and particularly to a home that her grandmother lived in while she was nursing in Boston. The home was built in 1923 on a farm settled by the Shaw’s in 1808. Judy will speak about the interesting things she found during the renovation, what is unique about renovating an old family home and gardens of a place with so many memories, what to consider, what to keep and what to change. She will bring along some old photos as well as some before and after shots.

The third in the series will continue the following Saturday, February 22nd with Jack Sorensen from the Tryon and Area Historical Society talking about “Capturing the History of a Community for Future Generations”. For more details, click here. The lectures run from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. followed by refreshments.

Lawson (1)For a man who thinks he’s become a little rusty as a presenter, confessing he had given up public speaking some time ago, he certainly still knows how to fill a room and keep us hanging on his every word. Dr. Lawson Drake spoke about changes in farming, and with the room full, including many farmers, he did not raise himself up as an expert by any means. But what Lawson may be best at is observing life. He would have honed that skill as a biologist and inspired students with his passion for understanding living things.

He had a good start in life having been raised in the heavenly spot of Meadow Bank with its grand views of the West and Clyde Rivers and surrounding communities of St. Catherine’s and Clyde River. He could see how things were interdependent and, when managed well, the land could provide sustenance and sustainability for its rural communities. He may have gone on to achieve his doctorate, but I suspect it was to more fully understand the wonder that surrounded him each day. And with his gift of speech, he passes that sense of wonderment to us, despite his modesty.

Lawson began his talk highlighting that although PEI had been exporting products throughout its history, the last century saw farm acreage increase from a typical 100 acres to anywhere up to 1000 acres to accommodate larger production. Along with that, the number of farmers has decreased and, with those remaining, they specialized as dairy, potato, hog, poultry or beef farmers.

Changes in rural community life led to a disappearance of grist mills, blacksmith shops, general merchants, cheese factories, district dairies, local schools, and country doctors. Traditions like working bees where people banded together with their neighbours and those from other communities to complete the harvest and when schools began the year in mid-August so they could close for two weeks at peak harvest for children to go potato picking are now part of history.

Lawson posed these questions, “Did the changes in agriculture cause the changes in community life or was it the other way around? Or were both of these changes part of a larger evolutionary shift?”

He showed slides featuring pen and ink drawings from Meacham’s 1880 Atlas which give us an image of what farm life looked like 135 years ago, not unlike the farm where he grew up. He was a little skeptical that the properties of those days would be so neatly fenced and suggested the drawings portrayed an idealized view.

He offered a handout with a list of words and phrases that were common in his farm boy vocabulary, reflecting early farming days and now considered rare words almost forgotten by some and, for others, not even known. These words passed out of usage with changes in farming.

The first word was “Alsike”, a variety of clover, which he used to describe a typical crop rotation in earlier days. The first year of a rotation, a field would be ploughed and planted with a root vegetable like potatoes, turnips or mangels. In the second year, a grain would be planted like barley, oats, wheat, mixed grain and under sewn with three kinds of clover along with a grass like Timothy. A new meadow referred to the first cut of hay that you took from that planting, rich in clovers…coarse red clover, fibrous alsike and short and sweet white clover. In the next year, the Timothy grass would take over and be cut for one or two years in the rotation. In the following year, the field would be used as pasture or maybe ploughed to begin another rotation.

Fields of four to five acres featuring different crops and five or six-year rotation patterns are in the past. Where there were once several crops grown in succession before returning to the same crop, now, typical crop rotations are two or three years before replanting the initial crop.

He continued by asking the audience to suggest words from the list to discuss:

  • A barrack was a structure consisting of a roof supported by four poles which was used to store and protect hay. Barns were not large in those days, so a supplemental structure was required.
  • A mow “pronounced like cow” was an area in a barn open from the floor to the roof which stored hay.
  • Black leaf 40 was derived from tobacco and 40% nicotine sulphate, basically a powerful tobacco juice. It was used to treat lice on hens. Farmers would sprinkle a few drops in the hens’ nests and the warmth of the their bodies evaporated the juice, the fumes flowing up over them and exterminating the lice.
  • Humpty-dumpty was a container that held 2.5 dozen eggs and featured special separators to protect them from breaking.
  • A firkin is a 9-gallon container or small barrel used to store butter typically in the cellar during the winter months when cows’ milk production fell off.
  • For the full list of rare words, click here.

He finished off his talk with an excerpt from an “old reader”, a book of English literature from his school days that so eloquently describes the technique or art of using a scythe, authored by Hillaire Belloc in The Mowing of a Field, detailing the skill and pride taken in being a farmer. You can read the except, click here.

Lawson brought along an old newspaper clipping that he received from Roy Jewell featuring a Clyde River School Fair held on September 11th, 1928, where pupils from Meadow Bank, Kingston and Clyde River exhibited agriculture products, handcrafts and baking that were judged by a Miss Maszard, Mr. Edward MacPhail and Mr. Walter Shaw. Agricultural exhibits included oats, wheat, corn, potatoes, tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, beets, turnips, mangels, carrots, cabbage, sweet peas, crab apples and plums. Crafts included sewing, crocheting, embroidered linen, milking stool, nail box, hammer handle. Animals included livestock and chickens. Plants included potted geraniums, mixed flowers, tree leaves and weeds. There were also categories for drawings and writings. The list of winners are well-known names that in many cases represent parents or grandparents of those currently living in the area.

Thank you, Lawson, for an entertaining and thoughtful presentation that reminds us of how farming deeply connected our neighbouring communities.

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