Stimulating heritage knowledge

By John Jamieson

Published Sept. 12 2017

When people new to the Haliburton area settle as permanent residents they usually pick up and read a package of information about the area and services provided by the municipality. Although valuable it does not touch heritage other than mentioning a local museum.

Several years ago the Highland Grove Museum volunteers thought it might be nice to set up 200 questions about the area and use it to inform the public. The idea fermented for several years and suddenly the bubble burst into a champagne idea: maybe have a contest for our Heritage Day on Sept. 16 in Highland Grove. The two books by Valerie Smith Harcourt’s Sons and Daughters and History of Wilberforce Elementary School and Surrounding Communities was an excellent reference.
A contest? About Highland Grove and surrounding area. Talk about weird eh. Maybe not. Perhaps there would be a $100 prize. And consolation prizes of coffee mugs with images produced by the museum.

A seasonal teenage visitor quite modern with tattoos and nose ring(s) was presented with the idea. No interest until the $100 was mentioned. “Give me the questions and answers. I’ll win the contest. Give me the sheets right now!”
Is it possible that a 19-year-old could acquire more specific knowledge about the Highland Grove area than a 75-year veteran of the area. Of course the teenager could only know facts and not the fabric of the community but still knowledge is knowledge and $100 buys lots of social media data time.
Some of the questions are challenging: Where in Harcourt was the “hot pond”?
When did electricity come to Highland Grove? What year did the ghost town of Cheddar open a uranium mine? In what year was the general store in Highland Grove opened? The I.B.&O train connected with what train line in Haliburton? A Mr. J. Hoyle is listed as buried in block 52 of the Deer Lake Cemetery. But in what country is he most likely buried? Wilberforce Cemetery has a columbarium. What is that? What was the original name of Wilberforce? Who was the first couple to marry in the Catholic church?

As lifelong residents of the Highland Grove area came into the library they were asked some of these questions. Of course some could be answered correctly but many were unknown.
Joanne Burroughs our queen bee genealogist and historian rattles off answers before the questions are finished and she is not a contestant.
So what is heritage? Is it a 19-year-old teenager spitting out arcane facts about the area? Is it a 75-year-old resident trying to guess the last time the I. B.& O came into town? Is it three pages of 200 questions and answers in the museum? Perhaps it is a bit of many things. Perhaps it is just a day set aside every year for people to gather socialize listen to the outstanding music of the North Jam look at donated books buy some baked goods have a hamburger play some horseshoes and check the latest genealogy research.
But in 2017 we’ll all be looking for that 19-year-old smarty pants teenager. Who will be the smartest historian in our area?
John Jamieson is president of the Highland Grove Heritage Society.