We are history in the making

Transcript and Free Press editorial by Marie Williams-Gagnon

Heritage: (n) 1. property that descends to an heir; 2a. something transmitted by or acquired from a predecessor; b. tradition; 3. something possessed as a result of one’s natural situation or birth.  – Webster’s Dictionary

A mere dictionary definition cannot truly express the meaning and importance of heritage, especially in communities where generations have grown, learned and farmed together.


Like all rural communities, many of the surnames in the local phone book today are the same as those that would have appeared a century ago.

Personally I’m not a big fan of the decision to change the name of the long-running Tartan Days to Heritage Days, there is no doubt that the roots of those living in the community now run in many different directions but the original settlers to Glencoe and area were as proud of their family tartans as their Mc’s or Mac’s.

Something common among the local communities is that they were generally settled along rail lines or prospective railways. Because of insufficient water and the capability of equipment in the early days, portions of many communities were destroyed by fire in the early days.

So for those who have been out of the classroom for a decade or so and those new to the surrounding community, we’d like to take this Heritage Days issue to share a few facts you should know about the community in which you live.

• Long before there were settlers to move here, during the Ice Age, the ice sheet that covered Middlesex was hundreds of feet thick. Although it’s hard to believe, mastodons roamed Middlesex about 10,000 years ago. 

• The name Glencoe was  changed by Scottish settlers from the original name Gleanncumhann, which meant “narrow glen.”  


• The first plan of Glencoe was drawn in 1860. Glencoe became an incorporated village on December 6, 1873. 


• Many Middlesex names have roots in medieval Britain. Middlesex means the realm of the “middle” Saxons, as opposed to the East or West Saxons. The Angles and Saxons were Germanic tribes that dominated England from the fifth to the 11th centuries. 


• During the War of 1812, the Wardsville area was known as Ward’s Station, named after George Ward who bought the land from the Indians in 1810. During Proctor’s retreat from Moraviantown, many of George Ward’s family in the militia were captured by the invading Americans. 


• Robert Thompson built the first home in the Newbury area in 1851. Thompson later donated seven acres of land to the railway on the condition that they establish a station. The transaction assured the creation of a settlement, originally called “Wardsville Station.” More settlers moved to the community with the building of the railway. 


• Melbourne was originally known as “Old Fort” but the village was renamed Longwoods Post Office by area residents who had obtained a post office in 1837. That name was used until the Great Western Railway passed nearby in 1856 and at which time the station established there bore the name Wendigo. A fire on March 23, 1878 wiped out most of the original village. A decade later, the village recovered and rebuilt under the name Melbourne.


• Communications was no easy feat for early pioneers. The first telegram was sent from Komoka to Coldstream in 1873.


• Longwoods Rd., originally an Indian trail, was the only road for many years between London and Chatham. Ward’s Inn in Wardsville was the only hotel on Longwoods Rd. between Chatham and Fort Delaware.


• Mosa Twp. was first surveyed in 1821. “Mosa” is the Spanish name of the river Meuse in Belgium which is located near the site of the Battle of Waterloo. Theory has it that the name was ascribed to the Township by veterans of the Napoleonic Wars. The first major settlement was made by Argyllshire Scots who were seeking religious autonomy.


• Ekfrid Twp. was first surveyed in 1820. The name comes from Ekfrid or “Egfrid,” a Northumbrian king who fought the Britons. This is one of the original Longwoods Townships settled by Colonel Talbot.


While the names of some of the communities have changed over the years, one thing has remained a constant. The businesses still rely upon the patronage of the community in which they exist, much as the community relies upon them to support teams and schools. The need to support these home-grown businesses is more crucial today than ever.


While this newspaper has relied upon local businesses for advertising revenue since 1870, it has evolved as have other businesses to meet the needs of a changing society and reflect the heritage and history of this area.  


While not everyone’s children are in the front row of every photo and not all agree with each editorial decision that is made, a trip through our archives is a peep into the past, something crucial to taking that step forward into the future. 


After all, we are all history in the making.


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