By Grace Oborne
For a century, the Wilberforce Red Cross Outpost Historic House museum has diligently maintained its significance to Haliburton County. Now, the building is about to hit a new milestone.
On Monday, Aug. 15, at 7 p.m., the Wilberforce Heritage Guild 1991 will be hosting a celebration for the outpost’s 100th anniversary since opening.
The Outpost that stands in Wilberforce today, is a historic site. Not only is it the first Red Cross Outpost hospital to open in Ontario, but it was also the first hospital of any kind in Haliburton County and its surrounding area.
In the early 1920s, Alfred Schofield was a children’s aid inspector who was devastated by the number of women who had died during childbirth, due to the lack of medical assistance available. With such devastating knowledge, Schofield acted.
“He contacted the Red Cross Organization and said, ‘is there anything you can do for this area?’ Because obviously we had a great need for help here. They had suggested that if we could provide our community with a building, then they would provide a nurse and the equipment to staff the building,” said his great niece and secretary of the Wilberforce Heritage Guild 1991, Barb Schofield.
The outpost opened in 1922 and was run by live-in nurses. The Red Cross ended its nursing services in 1957. Then, the building continued to carry out duties of various medical services until 1963.
Vacant after years as a rental property, the Outpost was leased in 1991, and is now preserved, operated, and managed by the Wilberforce Heritage Guild 1991, a volunteer charitable group. It is now owned by the Municipality of Highlands East.
In 2003, the building was officially declared as a National Historic Site of Canada.
The 100th year celebration is set to be in the backyard of the outpost, which backs onto Dark Lake. The event will feature food, socializing, and a quilt raffle. Corn, hotdogs, ice cream, and cake can be expected. A winner will also be drawn for the quilt raffle.
Tickets for the quilt raffle have been on sale for most of the summer. The tickets will continue to be sold until the event by various members of the guild and during the Wilberforce Agricultural Fair that is taking place from Friday, Aug. 5 to Saturday, Aug. 6.
“This is one of our fundraisers that we’ve done for many years. This goes right back to the beginning of forming the museum. The ladies in the winter, hand quilted quilts, and then we’ve raffled them off to help raise money,” Schofield said.
The outpost has affected many lives and 100 years is just one of the many milestones to celebrate.
“I think it’s just a very great historical significance for the town because this was a milestone for local people. It changed people’s lives greatly. At that time, up here, we had no electricity, no telephones, and our roads were bad. We had nobody around to help out people with medical emergencies, particularly women in childbirth. So, this has been and is quite a big deal,” Schofield said.
Dedicated member of the Wilberforce Heritage Guild, Linda Cameron, recounts another significant milestone as well.
“Josephine Jackson is a significant woman because she served as the first nurse for the outpost in 1922,” Cameron said.
It isn’t a coincidence that every year there is an event for celebration on Aug. 15. There is reason behind the specific date.
“The significance of the 15th of August is that was the beginning the gate opening for the outpost as a museum. It’s sort of whatever day the 15th falls on. That’s when we celebrate,” Schofield said.
Members of the heritage guild and residents of Wilberforce and surrounding areas of Haliburton County eagerly anticipate the milestones of the outpost.
“I’m looking for a very nice celebration of a very significant part of Wilberforce history. I look forward to celebrating that and to make sure that people are aware of it, because there’s lots of people in town who’ve never been to the outpost,” Cameron said.
For more historic information about the Wilberforce Red Cross Outpost Historic House Museum, visit www.redcrossoutpost.org/.