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Friday, 13 February 2015 14:25
A story of history, traced by local churches and a warm, uniquely Canadian coat, had its humble beginnings in the Brussels, Cranbrook and Ethel communities.
“From the early 19th through to the mid-20th century in Canada, there was a gift [other perhaps than a purse of money] that revealed the high esteem in which a congregation regarded its minister. A bearskin coat was one that cost the congregation a considerable expense,” reads an entry of Museum Musings, a writing of the National Presbyterian Museum, located on Broadview Avenue in Toronto.
The article goes on to explain that the national museum collection’s first-ever bearskin coat, a black bear coat, came by way of Rev. William Arman Williams who, between 1927 and 1939, had been called to serve the pastoral charge that comprised the two Knox Presbyterian Churches in Cranbrook (congregation established in 1855, church built in 1865) and Ethel (church built in 1927).
The coat was manufactured by Montreal’s James Coristine & Co. Limited, a company founded in 1869 by James Coristine. The company sold a variety of fur products over the years, but found its greatest success with beaver fur top hats around the turn of the 20th century.
The Williams family’s journey began in 1880, when Williams was born in Wales. He graduated in Wales’ Presbyterian Bala College, was ordained in 1913 and served as a minister in Wales before moving to the United States in 1921, serving in Bangor, Pennsylvania from 1921 to 1926.
After serving briefly in Oxford, Iowa, Williams moved to Ontario and began his service in Huron County.
The coat, described as a “prized possession of the pastorate” was then passed on through several generations after first being gifted to Williams by congregations in Cranbrook and Ethel.
The generous gift was given not just out of admiration, said the Williams family, but out of necessity.
“The pastoral charge realized that its new Welsh minister would need to keep warm on his pastoral duties, so they took a collection and presented him with a new bearskin coat,” reads the description given  by the Williams family when the coat was donated to the Toronto museum. “He wore it while driving horse and cutter in the snow belt of Huron County when roads were impassable for travel by car.”
In 1939, after serving in Cranbrook and Ethel for over a decade, Williams moved on to serve the pastoral change of Valetta, Ontario and New St. Andrew’s in Dover Township.
Williams passed away in 1967, but not before the coat was passed to his son, Ivor, who had spent some time growing up in Huron County.
In an interview with The Citizen, from his home in London, Ivor, now in his 90s, says he remembers those cold, horse-drawn trips around Huron County, saying that he always remembered the coat as being a warm respite from the brutal local winters.
Ivor was educated at Cranbrook Public School, an experience he remembers fondly.
The building, he says, was two rooms, but only one was used as a classroom. He remembers a number of well-educated, successful pupils making their way through the school’s doors.
Ivor was among those successful students, serving as the managing editor of The London Free Press for a number of years and becoming the editor of The Regina Leader-Post in 1973 before retiring in 1988.
After retiring, Ivor served as a contributing editor and regular columnist for The Presbyterian Record from 1989 to 2000. During that time he also served as chair of The Record’s committee for one year.
Before Ivor began his work as one of the country’s foremost journalists, however, he served his country as a fighter pilot in the Royal Canadian Air Force during World War II.
Ivor was interviewed for The Memory Project, in which he recounted joining the Air Force the day after he turned 18. Living with his father William and mother Annie in Tilbury, he travelled to Windsor in order to enlist.
When he arrived in Windsor to enlist, he found himself in front of a man whose wedding his father had presided over just days before.
The man told Ivor, “You’re old enough, you’re smart enough – you can be a pilot.”
In The Memory Project, Ivor remembered his first flight. When his instructor allowed him to fly solo for the first time, Ivor said he remembered shouting, cheering and clapping his hands, happy to be in the air by himself for the first time.
Ivor was stationed in Digby, a northern community of Yorkshire in England. He served with the 443 Squadron as a Spitfire pilot.
During his time as a pilot, Ivor said one of the most harrowing experiences he’d had was a mid-air collision, something very few people survived.
Ivor says he had flown the last patrol at night on June 5, 1944 in south England. He described the experience as “the most fantastic sight that I will ever see”. He had flown a number of missions prior to D-Day, but on June 6, 1944, he assisted in patrolling Juno Beach, warding off enemy fighters and providing cover for ships, The Memory Project states.
It wasn’t until years later that Ivor would pass his father’s bearskin coat onto his son, Garry, who would then donate it in 2012 to the National Presbyterian Museum, where it now remains.
The family still has roots in Huron County. Ivor’s sister, Eluned (Williams) McNair passed away at Brussels’ Huronlea Home for the Aged on June 20, 2014, just five days short of her 100th birthday. She and her husband Stuart had farmed near Cranbrook until Stuart’s death in 1972.
Eluned then moved into Brussels, living in the same house in which her mother and father lived during their time in Brussels. Eluned left behind a beloved daughter, Myra Henry, and her husband Bill, who now live in Goderich.
Born in Wales in 1914, Eluned had been a teacher at Union School on Cranbrook Road for a number of years before the country schools merged and she continued her teaching career at Grey Central Public School, now North Woods Elementary School.
Her final resting place is now Brussels Cemetery, just south of the village.
By Shawn Loughlin
A story of history, traced by local churches and a warm, uniquely Canadian coat, had its humble beginnings in the Brussels, Cranbrook and Ethel communities.
“From the early 19th through to the mid-20th century in Canada, there was a gift [other perhaps than a purse of money] that revealed the high esteem in which a congregation regarded its minister. A bearskin coat was one that cost the congregation a considerable expense,” reads an entry of Museum Musings, a writing of the National Presbyterian Museum, located on Broadview Avenue in Toronto.
Tuesday, 10 May 2011 10:52
From Brussels Post
Morris Township 125th Anniversary edition 1981
Sunshine – an optimistic name for a place in Morris Township which never lived up to its promise.
Now, the only real tangible proof of its existence is the cemetery on top of the hill on the sideroad off the fifth concession.
Mrs. Russel Bone of Wingham was born in Sunshine and said they had told her at one time there was a chair factory there, but it wasn’t there any longer in her time. She said there was a chair in her parents’ home, though, that was made in the chair factory in Sunshine.
When Mrs. Bone was in Sunshine, the post office was there with Milton Watson as the postmaster until he moved away in 1910. Mr. Watson later returned to Sunshine and was postmaster until the mail from there was switched to Belgrave.
Sunshine at one time also apparently had a sawmill erected by Paddy Brown who later sold to Isaac Rogerson who in turn operated it in conjunction with the chair factory. The lumber was teamed to the railroads at Brussels and Belgrave by Tom Hawthorn, Mossie Clark and Morris McCasey.
Sunshine also had a blacksmith shop, a combined general store and post office.
There were two churches – Bethel which was built around 1855-56 and Sunshine Methodist which was first erected as a loghouse church and then in 1875 a frame church was built and later bricked.
Bethel closed in 1883 and its members were transferred to the churches at Sunshine and Belgrave.
At Sunshine church, they used to have officials from the church go to the people’s homes every three months to get a collection. There was also a collection of loose change held in the church.
The opening of the church was attended by the Brussels Methodist Choir. Later the church had its own Sunshine Choir.
The sawmill in Sunshine closed for want of logs and gradually people left the community taking the congregation of the church also. In 1927 the church and shed were sold. The church sold for $160 and the shed for $250.
The Sunshine Church lasted from 1875-1927.
At one time, there was also a Johnston’s church on the first concession of Morris and when that closed, people went to the church in Bluevale.
And then there was Browntown, with the church on one corner and the school on the other. While they were building a new school, the children studied in the church. That first winter they had to keep the school heated so the pipes wouldn’t freeze, so they held church in the new school. That’s also where Mrs. Bone’s son Keith was baptized on Christmas Sunday in 1947.
At Browntown church, they used to have a garden party every summer in the horse shed. Sometimes the young people from Belgrave would put on a play.
Browntown church was built in 1866 and closed in 1949, according to information obtained from Mr and Mrs. Charles Bosman.
Browntown church used to be located on their property. One of the first thoughts of Mrs. Bosman’s grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Edward Bosman when they moved onto that farm was the building a church.
Mrs. Bosman described the building as a one-storey brick building with a little porch on the front, heated with a wood stove inside and there were oil lamps on the wall. There was a pump organ in the little church and some of the first people to play it were Mrs. Henry Mathers and Mrs. Elmer Hastings.
Material in the church other than the brick was donated free and built with free labour. Across the road from the church was a cemetery with land donated by William Jewitt.
Although Morrisdale was one of the early crossroads post offices established in Morris Township, it never became a settlement of any proportion.
According to James Scott’s book, the Settlement of Huron County, its first Postmaster Donald Scott took over in 1854.
Only a cemetery now remains to remind people that there used to be a place called Bushfield in Morris on Lot 11, Concession 7 of the township.
However, it once contained Thomas Holland’s hotel and James Newcombe’s combined general store and post office. Robert Newcombe carried the mail on foot from Belgrave to Sunshine, then to Bushfield, a distance of six miles.
Jamestown, which is part of Morris and part of Grey got its name from James Aitcheson, a news correspondent for The Huron Expositor around 1855-1860.
There were also a number of other men named James who probably helped to contribute to that name, such as James Holland and James Lynn who were both postmasters as well as James Strachan, James Simpson, James Forrest and James Moses.
A general store with Duncan McDonald as owner was built around 1905. Other places in Jamestown were a shoe shop, an apiary, wagon shop and a hotel.
Victoria Hall was built in Jamestown in 1906 to accommodate a large Sunday School and concerts and public meetings were also held there.
According to an excerpt from The Brussels Post 1885, the village of Walton contained post and telegraph offices, two hotels, two stores, a steam sawmill and all kinds of minor manufacturing. It also had a daily mail route, both ways, from Brussels and Seaforth by stage.
In 1885 Jamestown and Morrisbank were simply post offices although Jamestown, which was situated at the crossing of the middle of the Maitland, looked as if it had chances of springing up as a village in a way of a store, hotel and blacksmith shop.
Belgrave was once a beehive of industry with a sawmill, two busy blacksmith shops, a general store and a hardware store as well as the former Queen’s Hotel (which in 1981 was an apartment building).
In 1876, Belgrave also had a railway station on the fourth line of Morris with the line running from London to Wingham.
On the northern boundary at the junctions of Highway 86 and 87 is Bluevale, which in the 1956 History of Morris Township book was noted for its chopping mill, supplied with power from the Maitland River mill dam, three stores, a butter factory, a public school and two churches. Some of these buildings are no longer in existence.
From Brussels Post - Morris Township 125th Anniversary edition 1981
Thursday, 27 May 2010 14:51
By Bonnie Gropp
The following memories of Brussels by Graham Work, then 85 years old,  were published in the Brussels Homecoming Issue of The Citizen on July 26, 2007. Work had never lived more than a short jaunt from Brussels.
Work, born on the family farm just a mile out of town, remembers a Brussels that bustled. From Saturday night socializing downtown to Sunday’s church services, or school days at the old two-storey Brussels public and continuation, trips to the village were frequent for the family.
One of Work’s first memories would be of Sunday school at Melville Presbyterian Church, which he and his wife Margaret attend to this day.
“It was always held in the afternoon then. I used to go in with Mac and Frank Cardiff. Mac would drive the horse and there would be a big crowd of kids.”
As he got older Work took collection at the Sunday night service, then had his social life, picking up Margaret in Wroxeter, usually after 9 p.m.”
“What teenage boy would you know who would stay in town for church on Sunday night?” says Marg.
“It was one of the things you did,” said Graham. “You were brought up that way.”
Work attended the service at night as he did the chores during the mornings so his parents could attend.
His trips to Wroxeter took about 20 minutes in the family’s Model A.
Another of Work’s earliest memories is of main street — and the smell of fresh bread.  “That’s one of the first things I remember is the smell of baked bread coming from Willis’s bake shop.”
Youngsters could always count on getting a raw weiner while Mom or Dad were shopping at the butcher’s. Across from the the bakery was Bill Procter’s store, where, said Work, “there was a little bit of everything. Anyone my age would remember that.”
Every Saturday night Elston Cardiff delivered milk. When Work was a young teenager he rode around on the running board to make the deliveries and was paid an impressive 10 cents for his efforts. “I’d go to Bill Procter’s for a hot dog. He boiled the weiners in a little aluminum dish and it cost me five cents.”
You could pick up a pint box of ice cream in the summer, directly scooped into a little box. “And they had double cones then. Really double, with a scoop on each side.”
And once in a while there were “real” treats available like “oysters and limburger cheese.”
There were several gas stations in town and Work recalls a price of 25 cents a Canadian gallon.
There were at least two egg grading stations where folks brought their eggs on Saturday night, then bought their groceries.
The stores were actually open two nights a week to serve the community, but Saturday was always the big one, especially in the summer.
“That was the day of angle parking and it was the thing to park the car in a good spot so you could sit and watch who was passing by. The farmers’ store, the co-op, was always the place to visit. They sold harnesses, men’s work clothes and had a small egg grading station.”
No less than five hotels graced Brussels main street at one point. There was even one located outside of town, on the same corner where the Work farm is located.
Next to the bake shop was the Queen’s Hotel and Maggie Rutledge’s pool hall. “That was always a good place to go for a hamburger if you had 10 cents,” said Work.
When the Queen’s was demolished in March of 1986, the old storefront for Maggie’s was uncovered. It is now housed at the Huron County Museum.
The town bell rang three times a day, 6 a.m., noon and 6 p.m. “I guess it was just a reminder for everyong,” said Work. Town custodian Gordon McDowell was charged with the task, along with serving as constable, street sweeper and weighmaster for the cattle driven into town. “That was something. To try to keep them out of people’s gardens.”
While the adults tended to family’s material needs in town, the children spent Saturday night burning off energy. “We met the neighbours and always played hoist the sails (like hide and seek). The library was always home base. You’re parents didn’t worry about your getting lost or coming to any harm. There was a lot of freedom.”
Generally for children, Work said, there wasn’t a lot of entertainment available. “Not that I remember. While they did have variety revues at the town hall, this was later. When I was young there wasn’t much until you were old enough to go to dances.”
The fall fair was eagerly anticipated therefore. “It was the big day of the year. They sold all kinds of fruit as well as the exhibits, so there were lots of vendors. There was a midway, such as it was, and races. The horse races were good, so that was a big drawing card for the farmers.”
The students marched, but it was a bigger deal than today, Work recalls. “You had to practise for weeks and the teachers all had gloves, purses and hats.”
Skating was also a popular pastime. “You always went skating on Saturday night in the winter. Before they built the old arena it was an open air rink. I remember going in once with Dad on a load of chop, thinking I was going skating, but there was a hockey game on.”
Walter Williamson looked after rthe arena then. “He was kind of gruff but it was good I suppose that he had you a little scared. You could play crack the whip back then if he didn’t see it.”
The dam was always a big attraction as well. “I have been totally immersed in the Maitland River,” laughs Work. Kids used to go to the dam at noon during school, strip to the underwear and take a dip. Work was standing at the flume when “Big Buster Stiles” pushed me in. It was the first time I’d been in deep water and I couldn’t swim.”
What happened?
“I learned how.”
The dam could pull people to it in the winter too. “There was one particular time I remember when they knew the ice was going over the dam on Sunday. We drove over to see it.”
Work said the ice used to be cut  from the dam for the ice house and packed for people to use in their ice boxes.
Work remembers a variety of responsibilities and jobs he had when he was young including helping lead horses from Jack Galbraith’s stable to the train. “There were six in a row haltered together. We must have moved 24. I was pretty excited about that, proud to be helping.”
Many things have changed, obviously since Work first began spending free time in Brussels. Where once residents had their choice of doctors or veterinarians, they now must drive for medical assistance. Work recalls an era when community was dependent on community, when people stayed close to home and supported home.
“It was a good time and a good place.”
By Bonnie Gropp
The following memories of Brussels by Graham Work, then 85 years old,  were published in the Brussels Homecoming Issue of The Citizen on July 26, 2007. Work had never lived more than a short jaunt from Brussels.
Thursday, 27 May 2010 14:37
By Shelby Crawford
Born in 1897 and self taught on the fiddle, the Kansas farmer made his career travelling, entertaining crowds, and uplifting people with his music and humorous monologues.
Married in 1920, he continued travelling and performing his act until settling back in  his hometown in the late 1960s. In his later years, his shows became fewer and fewer, but his artistic flare for stories continued through his weekly columns in The Brussels Post. His final performance in 1974 drew together such an assembly of people some had to be turned away.
From weddings, carnivals, fairs, and town celebrations, the Kansas Farmer, part of the Gentlemen’s Club and all-around entertainer, is considered a novelty in his home-town and known for his audacious actions and risky writing. Keeping tabs on every euchre event and those who attended as well as any other town happenings, his weekly news articles were jam-packed with titillating tales of his Gentlemen’s Club meetings and town news.
Spending much time away from his small town travelling to other communities to entertain, the Kansas Farmer became a well-known name in many parts.
Signing each article “truthfully  yours T.K.F.”, The Kansas Farmer, this collection of enjoyable articles written by Jack Thynne of Brussels, Ontario is a fascinating read. Dating back around the 1970s Jack Thynne, wrote facts and spun fun fictitious stories of his own comedic commentary about the town of Brussels.
Thynne paints the town of Brussels the way he saw it – honestly, but with a sense of camaraderie among its community through good and bad. Not shy about using the names of people in his town, Thynne describes what is happening with the community from card games and town events to people’s adultery and alcoholism.
He points out certain individuals political standpoints, and does not forget to add in his own, particularly if it is of an opposing opinion. Thynne delights in comparing the older ways of life to the modern approaches, mainly his view of the lifestyle difference between the hardworking country family and the undemanding city life of fast-moving technology and instant gratification.
Although his exaggerated stories of cucumber vines growing so fast they wrapped around his legs and dragged him to his neighbour’s lawn are stimulating to read, it is his stories about the people in the town and how the community interacts with each other through different happenings that make the articles of particular interest.
By Shelby Crawford
Born in 1897 and self taught on the fiddle, Jack Thynne, "The Kansas Farmer" made his career travelling, entertaining crowds, and uplifting people with his music and humorous monologues.
Thursday, 25 February 2010 13:36
Brussels was one of 111 Ontario towns to receive a library courtesy of Andrew Carnegie’s generosity. After selling the Carnegie Steel Company to JP Morgan for $500 million in 1901, Carnegie decided to embark on a mission of philanthropy.
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