Artifacts on display in “Call The Doctor!”

One artifact currently on display in our “Call The Doctor!” exhibit is a white pearl pencil, which is part of a larger set. This pen set was given to Myrtle (Branton) Akins on her graduation in 1942, possibly by someone named Bud Cupe (according to a note left inside the case). Myrtle had just graduated from nursing school and would be a practicing nurse at the Strathroy Middlesex General Hospital during the 1940s. The pen set is a white pearl nurse set and contains a fountain pen, a pencil and a thermometer. The set would have been useful while working at the hospital. The pen set was donated to the museum by Ruth Clark, along with a medicine bottle and other items belonging to Myrtle.


Myrtle Akins

The pen set was manufactured by Waterman’s Pens, a company that specialized in making pens. In 1883 Lewis Edson had just lost a large sale owing to a pen that overflowed ink onto the client. Edson then invented a fountain pen that would not leak excess ink when not in use. By 1884 Edson created the “Ideal Pen Company” which would be renamed Le Waterman in 1888. In the year 1900 the company received a gold medal of excellence for its pen design at the Paris Expo. Despite the fact that founder Lewis Edson passed away in 1901 the company took off and became one of the biggest for pen manufacturing and selling. However by the 1920’s the old-fashioned Waterman’s was losing out to other, more advanced companies and struggled to keep up. It struggled through the war years and was shut down in 1954. In 1958 the company was bought by Bic and would keep making fountain pens. While the Waterman division was sold several times, it continues to make quality pens.

Came see Myrtle’s pencil, and other neat artifacts on display now in “Call The Doctor!”


Did you know that July is watercolour month?

Wright Home 2006 4 3

This watercolour painting currently on display in Artful Architecture in the Art Space at 34 Frank is one of many done by artist John Kolstein. He was born in Holland and immigrated to Strathroy with his family in 1957. In his early years in Strathroy, Kolstein was commissioned to do a number of paintings of local businesses and houses. Many of his works were watercolour though he was known to mix in pen. He passed away September 22, 1991 in Strathroy. The Museum’s Collection houses many of his paintings.

One painting in particular is of the old Wright family home located at 40 Kittridge (Kittredge) Ave. W, Strathroy. The house was built in 1871 by James Wright (1837-1914). It was occupied by James, his wife Keziah Clark (Chinnick) and their children – one of which was Ernest Joel (E. J.) Wright who founded the Wright Piano company. After James’ death his wife and eldest daughter, Mary Jane (Polly) moved closer to the downtown core. They wanted to avoid having to climb up the hill to Kittridge and moved to 27 Metcalfe Street. Keziah lived there until her death in 1926. After Keziah passed another of her daughters Margaret Susan and her husband Alfred Brock moved in. After Alfred’s death in 1933 the sisters, Polly and Maggie, continued to live in the house for another 18 years or so until they both passed away (Polly in 1949 and Maggie in 1950).

A photograph taken in 2009 shows renovations occurred that removed the porch and the second floor balcony. Further renovations occurred, as can be seen in this 2014 Google Street photograph, with the porch being added once again.

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Ideas on how to take part in Watercolour Month

First if you have never tried it before, go for it. Pick a photo or go outside, paint with friends and family, or take a class.
Always wanted a watercolour in your living room? Support a local artist by purchasing a piece of art.
Have a favourite watercolour painter? Highlight a work of art on Facebook and other social media platforms.


No. 5 Underwood Standard Manual Typewriter

This typewriter was used somewhere in the Strathroy-Caradoc area. It was gifted to the museum by the Salvation Army. The typewriter has a black base with gold details and lettering.

Underwood was the most successful version of the typewriter ever invented. It was created before 1900 and was popular until around 1961 with the introduction of the IMB Selectric (an electric typewriter). Most other companies modeled their typewriters after Underwood’s. This particular one is a No. 5 Underwood, a standard typewriter. They were made alongside No 3 and No 4 from late 1900 until 1931-1932. This particular No 5 model was made sometime in 1913. Underwood typewriters used a ribbon for ink instead of a pad which was easier, created less mess and had to be changed less frequently. Underwood had actually been a type ribbon and carbo paper (used to make copies before the invention of the photocopy machine) manufacturer before making typewriters.

The reason the keys on the keyboard are arranged the way they are goes back to the days of the typewriter. The goal was speed and efficiency- to type as many words in as little time as possible. The keyboard keys were originally arranged to maximize how fast one could type. There were several different arrangement ideas given but in the end one known as QWERTY won out. To further maximize efficiency every so often someone tries to come up with a new keyboard arrangement that is better than QWERTY but none so far have taken its place. This is the name of the keyboard type that is still used today. This model is slightly varied depending on the country and language used.

img001How this bottle ended up in the collection is through donation. It was donated with several other objects belonging to local nurse Myrtle (Branton) Akins. Myrtle Akins was a resident of Adelaide Township, Ontario. Myrtle was a part of the Strathroy Nursing School and graduated in 1942. She worked as a nurse at SMGH until 1949/1059 when she got married. The medicine bottle most likely belonging to or was used by Myrtle. She was married to George Orland Akins; the two had several children and grandchildren.

This medicine bottle once held Penicillin Sodium (Crystalline) G. This was a white powder used to reduce the development of drug-resistant bacteria. It was injected or given by intravenous. It should only ever be given if the infection is caused (or strongly thought to be caused) by bacteria.

The penicillin was manufactured by Henry K. Wampole & Co Ltd. The company was based out of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the United States. In 1905 the company moved into Canada and opened up a factory in Perth, Ontario in 1906. The company was established in the 1870s by Henry K. Wampole, and in 1978 both Albert Koch and S. Ross Campbell joined the company. The penicillin in this bottle was made sometime after the factory opened in Perth though exact date is unknown.

The bottle itself is made of glass with a rubber stopper. It has an orange sticker on it which contains the information about what is inside and how it should be used. The glass was manufactured by T.C. Wheaton Glass Company (established by Theodore C. Wheaton) out of Millville, New Jersey, USA. The bottle has a trademark on the base reading T.C.W. Co U.S.A. Type III, the trademark of T.C.W. Co was used from 1900-1960. The bottle could have been made anytime, though it is more likely to have been manufactured in the 1930s or 1940s as that is when Myrtle (Branton) Akins was in nursing.

This week was volunteer appreciation week.  Museum Strathroy-Caradoc has a number of dedicated volunteers working with the collection and below are their stories.

I started volunteering to work at the Strathroy Museum in September of 2014. As of March 31, 2016 I have 326 hours of community service. My work involves taking pictures of items and logging them into the computer (into PastPerfect) with a brief description of each item. I currently work Tuesday and Thursday afternoon each week. As I did not grow up in the area I find it interesting to learn more about the history of Strathroy Caradoc.

The RS Williams glass negative collection covers the years of approximately 1901-1905 and were discovered above Bosson’s Pharmacy.  As a recent retiree, I have been cleaning, identifying, recording and digitizing the negatives two mornings a week since October 2015. The tasks give me an insight into the names, clothes and customs of one hundred years ago. I have been fortunate to see the original glass negative of a picture of my maternal grandmother and her sisters from 1901. Preserving the Collection and assisting the Museum Strathroy-Caradoc is an excellent volunteer opportunity

Each week I scan the old Age Dispatch negatives into PastPerfect (the museum database).  I then transcribe the captions from the actual hard copy of the newspapers into the database and create search terms and key words that will aid future researchers.  So far I have completed the newspapers from March and part of April of 1984 and will start on May very soon.

Below are some of the items that George, Paul and John have been working on

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In 1964 Melbourne Legion Branch 510 purchased two lots at the Longwood Cemetery to build a memorial stone to honour all those that had fallen in past conflicts. Construction was complete in 1965.  This cemetery is located approximately 2 km north of Melbourne on Melbourne Road.  The Legion members and members of the community would march out to it from the village and have a ceremony every year.

After a number of years the Legion decided to look for land closer to the village.  Mrs. Elsie (Vail) Auld and Mrs. Ina (Vail) Campbell of Melbourne made the new park a reality when they donated a triangle of land to the Melbourne Royal Canadian Legion Branch 510.  This new park would located across the street from the Presbyterian church facing Victoria Street.

The land was donated in memory Mrs. Beatrice McDougall, a long-time resident of Melbourne.  She lived in the red brick house across from the new park. The triangle became separated as a result of everyone taking a short cut across the property that eventually became a road.

The land was deeded as a gift with the intent that the Legion would maintain the park. The Melbourne Legion moved the war memorial to its new location in 1985.  Other additions to the new park included plants, flag poles, lights (1987) and interlocking brick (1988).

With the move the memorial is now more visible and closer to the churches.

Currently Museum Staff are working at adding a Virtual Memorial for the Melbourne Cenotaph that is similar to that of Strathroy and Mount Brydges.

Melbourne Cenotaph

Melbourne Cenotaph

WWI Soldiers that were inscribed on the Cenotaph in 2014 include

Pte John McDougald
L Cpl William Newman
Pte Arthur Stevenson
Pte John Annett

Others from Melbourne area that are honoured on other memorials include

Wilfred James Cooper
John Andrew Dow Elder
Arthur William Good
Joseph Edward Moore
Dougald McNeil

WWII Soldiers names there inscribed on the Cenotaph in 2014 include

F/O John Dewar
Cpl Lorne Evans
                                                                      Pte Warren Kellestine 
                                                                AC2 John Brodie

Information gathered from the following sources
Melbourne WI – Transcript and Free Press pg. 20 November 7 1985
A Split Village by JoAnn Galbraith
Honour Rolls and Cenotaphs of Middlesex County by John Sargeant

Mount Brydges Soldiers Monument

In the early part of the year 1919 a special meeting of the ratepayers of the Township of Caradoc was called by the Reeve, James Peters.  The town of Mount Brydges was considering erecting a memorial in the form of a building or other structure in honor and memory of the men of the Township of Caradoc who had enlisted in any armed forces during the Great War of 1914-18.  It the desire of the people of Caradoc to honour the memory of those who had made the supreme sacrifice in defence of freedom, so dear to the hearts of all British subjects.  The meeting was presided over by the Reeve while the township clerk, John Brodie, was asked to act as secretary. After long and interesting discussion it was decided to appoint a committee to further consider the matter and report to a later meeting.

At the second meeting the committee recommended that a monument be erected on the grounds in Mount Brydges on which the town hall was located and that the names of all those from the township of Caradoc who had given their lives in the war should be engraved thereon. It was further recommended that a marble tablet be placed in the town hall on which should be inscribed the names of all the men and women who had served in any way.

Early in June 1920 this committee was able to report that the monument was completed. The statue surmounting the pedestal had been obtained from Italy. The names of all those from Caradoc who paid the supreme sacrifice were engraved on the base.

The unveiling was held June 16,1920.

Unveiling Soldiers Monument Mount Brydges

Unveiling Soldiers Monument Mount Brydges

Researched and written by John Sargeant

This week we will be highlighting the monuments that are in Strathroy, Mount Brydges and Melbourne. 

Today we look at the Strathroy Cenotaph.

Strathroy Armoury ca 1909

Strathroy Armoury ca 1909

In 1909, as part of a campaign by the federal government, a new Armoury was built in Strathroy on Frank Street. Before this time the local militia had met and practiced in a shed near the corner of Adelaide and Scott Streets. The local militia unit was the 26th Regiment of the Middlesex Light Infantry.  During WWI the Armoury was the centre for recruitment of soldiers.

After the war it was only fitting that a War Memorial be placed near the building. 

The town initially was going to erect the monument but due to financial constraints was unable to right after the war.  The Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire (IODE) Mary Armstrong Chapter stepped up and raised the funds within the community to have the monument built.  They advertised in the local papers including the Strathroy Age Dispatch and asked for names to be submitted.  They updated and published this list over a number of months before it was finalized. 

The Strathroy Age Dispatch published an article on April 10, 1924 stating that “Messrs Hambly Brothers were working on the Soldier’s Memorial and that they hoped to have an unveiling later in the summer”.

Strathroy Memorial ca. 1924

Strathroy Memorial ca. 1924

On August 24, 1924 the community assembled in Alexandra Park and paraded to the cenotaph site in front of the Armouries. Teachers of various Sunday Schools saw that their pupils arrived with flowers.  Cars were provided for the next of kin and seats in the town square were ready.  

The program was as follows
Hymn “O God our Help”
Chairman Judge D C Ross – remarks
Unveiling of the monument by Miss Helen Buchanan of Stratford.
Prayer of Dedication – Rev John Moore
Scripture Reading – Mrs W. B. Lindsay (mother of Capt A. L. Lindsay)
Address General Sir Arthur Currie
Last Post
Placing of Wreaths on the monument
Band selections
Hymn “O Canada”

It wasn’t until 1930 that the Cross of Sacrifice and lamps were erected above the monument.  In an article dated July 31, 1930 it states “Strathroy’s Completed Memorial to “the Boys Who Did Not Return” will be unveiled next Sunday afternoon.  May the ornamental lamps at the Foot of the Cross forever burn in loving remembrance of Strathroy’s Fallen Heroes.  Work is a credit to the Daughters of the Empire.” This ceremony coincided with the Old Boys and Girls Reunion being held in Strathroy.

The lamps mentioned above were made at the Corning Glass Works of New York.  Twelve in total were produced for the War Memorial. 

The final monument consists of three large tablets of imperial grey Canadian granite standing side by side on a light grey base.  The centre tablet is inscribed “Our Glorious Dead” with the quotation underneath “To Live in the hearts of those we leave behind, is not to die”.  The rest of the space and the side tablets are occupied by the names of the soldiers whose memory is commemorated.

Strathroy cenotaph Spring 2012

Strathroy cenotaph Spring 2012

Research and information provided by John Sargeant and Museum Strathroy-Caradoc staff and volunteers.

Do you remember 1983?

Did you attend a local event or have a milestone recorded in the local newspaper, The Age Dispatch?

Did you go to the fair in Strathroy, Mount Brydges or Ilderton?  Were you on a sports team, hockey, basketball, soccer, football, baseball, tennis etc.?   If so you may be in the Museum’s Age Dispatch Negative Collection.

Some snap shots for 1983 include:
Joan Galbraith retiring from the Strathroy Post Office
Trillium Village being constructed and opening
Strathroy Blade Mike Stapleton scoring against the Sarnia Bees
Mr. and Mrs. Antonio T. DaSilva of Strathroy marked their 60th wedding anniversary
Mr. Dressup coming to Colborne Street School
Charlie Weatherby guessing how many candies in a candy jar
Wayne Pullen shooting apples at the First Annual Apple Shoot in Metcalfe Township
Turkey Fest Mocha Temple Races
Fire at Strathroy Furniture

There are over 800 negatives online to view.  You can go to the online collection directly through the link provided ONLINE COLLECTION or find in on our website at www.strathroymuseum.ca under the tab “COLLECTION” and the page “SEARCH COLLECTION”.

To Search the Collection once there you can either browse in the “random images” page or do a keyword search if you are looking for something in particular.

If you see one that you like fill out the order form located below each image.  There is a small fee of $5 – $25 depending on what resolution that you want and for what purpose.

Also if you have more information about a particular event or person that you see in the negatives that you would like to share please contact the museum at 519-245-1105 ext. 322 or cloyst@strathroy-caradoc.ca

When people think of a “House of Industry or Refuge” they might picture a poorhouse, a workhouse, a prison or a scene from a Charles Dickens novel. But in the 1800s, if you fell into any of the following categories – destitute, jobless, homeless, blind, aged, widowed, pregnant, alcohol ‘intemperate’ or abandoned by a husband or father – you could have been admitted to the House of Refuge.

In 1890 the House of Refuge Act was passed, allowing counties to receive $4000 to purchase up to 45 acres of land on which to build an institution. Middlesex was well ahead of that date. Support for a local House of Refuge began here in the 1840s, although it was almost 40 years before one was opened. Construction started in 1880 on a three-storey building located on present-day Napperton Drive, just west of Strathroy. The House officially opened on January 12, 1881 with four ‘inmates’. James Keys was the first name found in the book titled “Register of Paupers, Vagrants, and Idiots received at the House of Industry and Refuge County of Middlesex”.

Today we associate ‘inmates’ with prison, but in the 1800s this described anyone living in a public institution, including a jail, hospital or asylum. House of Refuge inmates/residents were granted admission by the acting reeve or a local council member; they were classified as ‘deserving poor’. There was a supervisor (or ‘keeper’), a matron and a doctor on-site at all times. A component of each of the Houses was a working farm where, if capable, inmates were required to work to offset the cost of running the facility. Over the years the House of Refuge model slowly evolved as other institutions were opened for orphans, the homeless and people with mental health concerns.

In the late 1800s and early 1900s many residents died of common ailments recorded as la grippe (influenza), general disability, apoplexy (stroke) and paralysis, so Houses of Refuge often had a cemetery on site. The Burial Register for the “House of Industry and Refuge, County of Middlesex” indicates there were two cemetery plots, where approximately 180 people were interred. The location of the first plot is unknown, but about 90 former residents of the House were buried there. The first burial took place in February 1881, after a woman identified as ‘Widow Cinnamon’ died at the age of 77. She was admitted to the House of Refuge from Ekfrid Township only two weeks prior to her death. The last person to be buried in the first plot was James Smith from West Williams Township, who died on August 13, 1889, the same day he was brought to the House. The second cemetery plot was opened on October 10, 1889 with the death of Mary Bratt. It was laid out in the northwest corner of the farm, now marked with a cedar hedge and rows of trees. Although the cemetery closed in 1900, one more burial took place two years later. George Edwin Bratt, born to Lizzie Bratt, was just eight days old when he died.

In the years after the cemetery was closed the bodies of 93 people were sent to the London Medical School for research purposes. The Anatomy Act allowed medical schools to legally procure unclaimed bodies from government institutions to further the advancement of medical studies. This continued until 1931, when Middlesex County purchased plots within Strathroy Cemetery to bury those who either did not have a family, or whose family could not afford a burial. There is a gravestone in the Cemetery with the inscription “Middlesex County Home” to mark where some of these residents are interred.

All of this may sound like a grim and dismal way to live in the late 1800s and early 1900s. However, when a person did not have any family or could not afford help, there was no other option. Gradual improvements in senior care and social services grew out of these institutions, and by the 1940s all Houses of Refuge were renamed Homes for the Aged. Eventually the Middlesex County House of Refuge became Strathmere Lodge.

This article could not have been written without the initial research provided by Lindsey Bannister. Further research is being conducted on the House of Refuge cemeteries by Museum Strathroy-Caradoc.  The listing of names can be found in the banner link above titled House of Refuge Cemetery Listing.

About the Museum

Museum Strathroy-Caradoc opened to the public in 1972. As a community museum we strive to preserve and tell the story of Strathroy-Caradoc, and inspire residents to explore and understand the community around them.

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