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Archive for February, 2013

Well, I am back again.  I guess I have committed myself to this rocky-chaired venue. Oh the pleasures of living in a small town where most businesses close their doors at 6pm.  The good news is that my delicious tea (Earl Grey with milk – no fanciness) totalled $2.05. I can definitely commit to that.

I must admit that this weekly ritual has reawakened my excitement about the history of the Shaws, and I hope that it has ignited a spark of interest inside of you.  And as much as I may complain about living in a small town, please understand I wouldn’t change my circumstances for the world.  I consider myself very blessed to be living so close to the land on which the histories of the Shaw family were born, and doubly blessed to be able to visit my grandparents each week, armed with a physical copy of my latest blog post and an unending list of questions.

For those of you who are not yet interested in or impressed by the accounts previously revealed, your fate may be determined in the final section of MacMurchy’s article.  Perhaps the story of Thomas and the kettle just wasn’t enough.  Perhaps you need a story that pits man against beast – Thomas against a bear.  Hooked yet? Read on.  (more…)

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Things are already looking up during week two.  My choice of beverage is more desirable than last week’s, and despite its inflated price tag of $4.80, I am $0.57 and 614 words ahead of where I originally began.  I fully expect to dominate my 2013 New Year’s resolution.

So yes, as promised, I give you Lorne, Mr. J.T. MacMurchy and “The Shaw Family of Nearby Banks”.  Please note that dates and statements requiring correction or further discussion have been identified with an asterisk (*). These points will be revisited in future posts.

The story of Thomas’s arrival at Banks is characteristic of the hardships that greeted, threatened, and ultimately empowered Collingwood Township’s earliest pioneers.  According to MacMurchy’s article, Thomas Shaw and his bride (who remains unnamed) left County Down, Ireland, “early in 1840* and after seven weeks at sea landed in the Lower Canada*.  They made the rough journey to Barrie where Mrs. Shaw rested while her husband continued through the bush on foot, looking for a farmsite in the Blue Mountain country.”

Upon arriving in Collingwood Township, Thomas settled on the west half of Lot 18, Concession 4.  He is presumed to have cleared* and constructed a shelter on his newly acquired property before returning for his wife, whom I must identify as Isabella Jordan out of respect for her own toils and out of necessity for my own sanity.

In his first year of settlement, Thomas planted “a little grain…and soon was able to take a bag to Barrie to be ground into flour for the winter. This trip was made on foot and Thomas Shaw carried the wheat on his back and brought it back the same way”.  For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the geographical layout of Grey and Simcoe Counties, Thomas’s impressive trek roughly amounts to a sixty minute drive today.  Additional research into the early “roads” of Grey and Simcoe Counties will shed light on the various routes he may have taken; however, this is a task for another day.  The important thing to note is that Thomas’s journey was inspired by his primal struggle for survival.

Reading on, Thomas continues to battle the challenging landscape of his new home. The familiar story that follows recalls that of the mythical figure Sisyphus; however, unlike Sisyphus, Thomas willfully chooses to traverse the Niagara Escarpment – the closest landmass to a mountain that Ontario has to offer – with an immense object balanced upon his back, and shoulders.  This is the story of Thomas and his iron kettle – not a tea kettle mind you, but a large, cast iron cauldron.

“In the spring of 1841* Thomas decided to tap some of the maple trees, but he lacked a kettle in which to boil the sap. He had cut troughs and other containers out of wood, but these could not be used to make sugar.

“One of his neighbours, Mr. Lunan, offered to guide him to an iron kettle which had been abandoned near Wasaga Beach. The men found it and floated it on a raft to a point near Craighleith [sic]. Mr. Lunan returned to his farm on the flats while Mr. Shaw put the kettle on his head and proceeded to climb the mountain to bring it to his home. He was successful in this attempt but he carried the scars of his experience to his death in 1902*.”

Of all the family stories I have heard, and that have been told over the past five generations, the story of Thomas and his kettle is undoubtedly the most revered. The pride and worth of an entire family has been built upon the powerful shoulders of this inspiring man who toiled in an unfamiliar landscape that would eventually become home to subsequent generations of strong-willed, and respected Shaws.

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The photograph that accompanies MacMurchy’s article successfully captures Lorne’s pride in his grandfather’s accomplishment.  That Lorne offers to “loan the kettle to any young man who would care to duplicate [Thomas’s] feat” only strengthens this point.

If you can believe it, there’s more.  But not until next week…

Source: MacMurchy, J.T., “The Shaws of Nearby Banks.” The Enterprise Bulletin. Sept. 6, 1972.

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