Ameliasburg Museum - Welcome Weekend
by Festival Nomad, Gary McWilliams
Back To Prince Edward County
It’s the Victoria long weekend and it’s the Ameliasburg Museum’s Welcome Weekend! The museum is located in the hamlet of Ameliasburg (named after the youngest daughter of King George III and Queen Charlotte). So, it was back to Prince Edward County for another adventure! We had originally planned to visit the Museum for the Welcome Weekend on Saturday, but because of heavy rains we postponed until Sunday. Sunday was a beautiful day with the sun shinning through scattered clouds. The newly formed leaves swayed in the brisk cool breeze. Judi and I had dressed warmly in anticipation of lower temperatures! We are glad we did as it was only 10?C when we left Cobourg! After a pleasant drive, we arrived in Ameliasburg. Our route took us along County Road 2 (formerly Hwy #2) through the villages of Grafton, Colborne and Brighton. Once past Brighton, we eventually came to the Loyalist Parkway and then our destination. The Ameliasburg Museum was easy to find. We parked our car and headed for the Welcome Weekend!
A View to the Past
From the parking lot we looked up at the museum’s ground and saw billowing white tents that had been set up by the re-enactors for the weekend’s activities. On the grassy area located down from the museum enclosure, a lone re-enactor archer stood ready to fire an arrow at his target. We walked up the slopped walkway to the museum’s visitor’s reception and gift shop. After paying our admission fee, we walked out of the centre into another world! The whole museum compound was alive with 18th century settlers. As we took in the whole scene, we saw various types of tent structures scattered throughout the museum grounds. It had been cold the previous evening and there was still a chill in the air. Many re-enactors were huddled under blankets or heavy coats. The cold, however, did not dampen their spirits. This was the first re-enactment of the year and everyone had come prepared for whatever Mother Nature had to offer. All around us re-enactors, men, women and children, were preparing for the up coming day. Open pit fires were burning in front of many of the tents and the smell of brewing coffee filled the air. Excitement and anticipation was all
After speaking with the re-enactors, Judi and I continued our journey through the Ameliasburg Museum grounds. Down on the field to the east of the grounds was the archery range. More people had gathered to take their turn at firing at the target! As we moved through the grounds, we found that re-enactor’s tents had been up everywhere there was spare space! There were all types of tents. Most were of the more common rectangular shape. They had high ceilings and most overhead awning for protection from rain. Other types and shapes of tents were there and included lean-tos, a teepee and “A” shaped tents. Open pit fires were everywhere! The smell of freshly cooked food and more coffee filled the air! There were plenty of permanent buildings too. We went into the “Ye Old Honey House” to find honey displays and artifacts. To the north of the building sat an old “Chicken Coop”. There were several occupants in residence! Close to th Coop was the “Carpenter’s Shop”. We took a look inside. There were signs that the carpenter had been working there, but was not there when we looked in. Near the Carpenter’s Shop was “Amelia’s Tea Room”, we took a quick look inside. Several people were sitting at tables enjoying hot coffee and warm pie! Next to the Tea Room was the Museum building. It was an old restored church and housed the Ameliasburg Museum’s period collection. We went inside to explore. There were a number of exhibits and displays scattered around the building. The one that caught my eye was a display that talked about the village’s namesake, Princess Amelia. There were 3 posters that described her short life. Other exhibits included a period piano, an organ, clothing, a loom, an old fashioned “high seat” vintage bicycle and much more. All the artifacts and memorabilia seemed to represent the time period that Amelia had lived.
The Log Cabin and More…
From the Museum building we walked west to an old restored log cabin. Judi stood in the doorway, her head above the transom. Inside we were greeted by the cabin’s museum interpreter. We talked with for some time. We asked her about the lowness of the doorway and ceiling. I had always thought that they were lower back then because of the height of the pioneers. The interpreter suggested that that might be a small part of the reason. Although she also told us that many of the pioneers were quite tall, depending on where they were from. She went on to say that the main reasons were likely more practical. Back when the cabin was originally build all the lumber had to hand cut down and hand tooled. Therefore, lower structures meant less lumber and less work. The other reason was the cold winters in Canada. Lower ceiling buildings were much easier to heat. She also mentioned that the cabin we were in was not a true restoration. Normally cabins of this period only had one window. This cabin has two. I guess during the restoration the museum decided two windows would be better. It was certainly an interesting and informative conversation. From the cabin we moved south, passed a small Smoke House and then reached a large barn. Inside the barn were carriages, an old wagon and a lot of old farm implements. Outside the barn more re-enactment tents had been erected. We stopped at one of the tents where a display of scrimshaw carvings had been set up. The scrimshaw carver, Charles Hargraves, was there and told us about the different items in his display. He also explained the carving process. The intricacy of carving and design were amazing. Charles even brought out a magnifying glass to show us some of the finer detail! Across from these tents were more buildings. We heard the ringing of metal upon metal and headed towards the sound. A blacksmith, Darrell Markewitz, within the building, was hard at work. We went in to watch and listen. As he worked, he described what he what he was making and some of his techniques. (Click HERE to watch video of Darrell) We found out that Darrell is from the Orangeville area and is a “Viking Age Specialist”. (Click HERE to visit his website) After watching Darrell for some time, we continued moving south. This time to another large barn. Large tractors and equipment were house inside. It was lunch time and we were getting hungry. Judi had packed a picnic lunch, so we headed back to our car to eat it.
Before we had left to enjoy our picnic lunch, we had bee told that there would by musical entertainment shortly after 2:00 PM. So, after lunch we headed back to the Museum grounds. Just outside the main entrance there is a one room school house. It was open when we arrived in the morning, so we decided to investigate. The inside set-up was similar to other school houses we had seen. It made me wonder what school life would be like back then. Certainly more basic then it is now. From the school we went back onto the Museum grounds. We had a little time before the entertainment started, so we decided to walk around the grounds once more. We looked down at the archery range and even more people had gathered! There was a long line-up to shoot at the target. The people down on the field didn’t seem to mind. They were all talking and laughing and having a great time mingling with their fellow re-enactors. As we continue our tour, I noticed one building that was now open that hadn’t been earlier. It was some kind of pump house with huge red wheel. The entertainment was going to take place near Amelia’s Tea House, so we headed in that direction. The musical group hadn’t quite finished setting up. We went into the Tea House. I had heard the Museum’s curator, Janice Hubbs, might be there and I had wanted to meet her. She was there and we talked for a short time. She was busy looking after Museum visitors. Back outside the music trio had just completed their set up and were about to begin their performance. We stayed to hear them perform. We had certainly enjoyed our time at the Ameliasburg Museum’s Welcome Weekend!