Tidbits & Trivia courtesy of the Norfolk Heritage Centre

What's in a Name?
Naming children over the past 200 years

"Othniel Smith"

‘Oh, what a name!’ I hear some young reader exclaim. Well, what is the matter with the name? There is no reason in the world why even a common, every-day Smith should always have a Joe or a John placed before it. …

The mother of Othniel, like all mothers of her time, did not ransack every creation of fiction for her children, as mothers do nowadays. They chose names that stood for something—names that possessed a common noun significance of meaning, and were representative of various types of character that had been demonstrated in real life by actual living personages. The Bible was the only book consulted when our great-grandmothers made a choice of names for their babies. The mother of Othniel Smith had read the story of Othniel, son of Kenaz, and first judge of the Israelites, how he had delivered his countrymen from the tyranny of the King of Mesopotamia, and she admired his character. Othniel was expressive of something. It mean valor, patriotism, and fidelity to righteous principles, and she named her son Othniel.”

An excerpt from E. A. Owen’s 1898 book, Pioneer Sketches of Long Point Settlement, chapter on Othniel Smith, pp. 249-251

“Among the old pioneer mothers we find in nearly every family a Rebecca—‘of enchanting beauty;’ an Elizabeth— worshipper of God;’ Rhoda—; ‘a rose;’- Matilda— ‘a heroine;’ Catherine— ‘pure;’ Abigail—‘my father’s joy;’ Amanda—‘worthy to be loved;’ Ann— ‘grace;’ El i n or— ‘ l i g ht . ’ El i za —‘consecrated to God;’ Esther— ‘a star;’ Eva— ‘life;’ Hannah—‘favor;’ Jane— ‘the gracious gift of God;’ Jemima— ‘a dove;’ Nancy—‘inherent excellence;’ Phoebe—‘pure and radiant;’ Ruth— ‘beauty;’ or Miriam, meaning ‘star of the sea.’ There is hardly a family without a Margaret— ‘a pearl,’ and more than one family boasted of a Mehitabel, which means ‘benefited of God.’"

E. A. Owen, Pioneer Sketches of Long Point Settlement, 1898

Owen went on to write in his 1898 Pioneers of Long Point Settlement book:

“Thus it is that among the sturdy old pioneers who came into the wilds of this Long Point Region of country a hundred years ago, we find so many Abrahams, Isaacs and Jacobs, with a copious sprinkling of Moses and Aaron, and not a few Abiels, Absaloms, Abners, Adonirams, Benjamins, Adams, Davids, Solomons, Ebenezers, Eliphalets, Ephraims, Jobs and Ezekiels, and even a few Barzillias, Zephaniahs and one Othniel.”

Just a few other names commonly found among pioneer families of old Norfolk listed by Owen:  Adam, Albert, Alexander, Charles, Christian, Cornelius, Daniel, Edward, Eli, Elisha, Frederick, Gabriel, George, Henry,  Hiram, James, Jesse, John, Jonathan, Joseph, Joshua, Leonard, Levi, Lewis, Matthias, Michael, Moses, Nathan, Nathaniel, Nelson, Noah, Oliver, Owen, Ozias, Patrick, Paul, Peter, Philip, Reuben, Robert, Russell, Samuel, Simon, Stephen, Thomas, Timothy, Uriah, Walter, Wesley, William.

Adelaide, Alice, Amelia, Amoret, Anna, Augusta, Charity, Clara, Clarissa, Deborah, Ellen, Elsie, Helen, Isabella, Jane, Jennie, Joanna, Julia, Lavinia, Lizana, Louisa, Lucy, Martha, Mary Ann, Melinda, Minnie, Patience, Priscilla, Rachel, Rhoda, Ruth, Sarah, Susan, Susanna.

Less commonly encountered: Alonzo, Alvenza, Alvin, Ansley, Arsula, Axford, Calista, Desire, Dorcas, Drusilla, Fanny, Flora, Freelove, Gideon, Huldah, Ichabod, Jabez, Judson, Jugurtha, Justus, Leander, Lebius, Leamon, Lemon, Lucretia, Mahala, Marks, Mercy, Orpha, Quintin, Prudence, Roxey, Salome, Shelar, Zebulon.


Naming Children

"Floral" Tribute

Popular Names

Thicks vs Thins!

Early Foundry

War of 1812 Medal
A Floral Tribute in Vanessa!
"Open house marks 65th anniversary

Vanessa:  Mr. and Mrs. David Arnold of Vanessa celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary yesterday with an open house.

The Arnolds have lived in Vanessa all their lives. Mrs. Arnold is the former Mabel Lundy, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Lyman Lundy of Vanessa.  Mr Arnold is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Arnold of Kelvin.

The couple has eight children: Mrs. Charles (Marguerite) Muma of Belmont, Mrs. Robert (Daisy) Lowe of Port Dover, Mrs. Frank (Rosebud) Casey of Ottawa, Mrs. Charles (Iris) Hunter of Milton, Mrs. Dell (Viloet) Alway and Mrs. Fred (Pansy) Miller, both of Vanessa, Mrs. Donald (Laurel) Jackson of Toronto and O'Clair Arnold of Waterford.

There are 17 grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren. The entire family attended."

source: 1967 newspaper clipping, likely Simcoe Reformer
Ten Most Popular Names in U.S.A. in 1880

Sarah/ Annie

Source: Robert Kyle, Maine Antique Digest 
As it should be played

Thicks vs Thins
February 14,2023

A fundraising hockey match between these two teams originated with members of Simcoe's Phoenix Club.  The following list of rules governing the game is taken from a published handbill (on sale in our Gift Shop) promoting the game:

O.H.A. Rules to govern, supplemented by the following special rules:
1.  Each of the Thicks to weigh over 200 pounds
2.  None of the Thins to weigh more than 150 pounds.
3.  Any person who has ever played hockey is disqualified.
4.  Any person who has had skates on in the last 10 years is disqualified.
5.  None of the players shall practice before the game.
6.  Any player failing to fall down for any consecutive 5 minutes shall be sent to the fence.
7.  Players must wear their skates throughout the match.
8.  The match shall last one hour, divided into four periods of 15 minutes each.
9.  Combination of play shall be the rule, but very brilliant individual play will be allowed occasionally.

and the Players ..

A newspaper report following the game reports that , "if at any time during the game the play resembled hockey, it was a coincidence."  Nobody knows how many goals were scored, or which side won, because all goals were disputed. "At one end,  Charley Austin, the druggist, refused to acknowledge any shot entering the net as a goal 'unless accompanied by a doctor's prescription'". At the other end, Wyatt Wood, Collector of Customs, insisted that "no shot would be accepted as a goal unless 'the proper customs papers were produced.'"

Admission was 25 cents and Beemer's rink, the site of this unique hockey match, was packed. It "rocked on its foundations to the shouts of laughter and delight of the crowd. It was voted not only as the game of the season but also the most hilarious and enjoyable event. A repeat performance was refused. The warriors had too many sore muscles and bruises -- mostly on their posteriors."
source: Norfolk Archives Scrapbook Collection, # 39
View a photograph of the two teams
Van Norman Foundry
One of the earliest foundries in Ontario was established where Potter Creek empties into Lake Erie, south of the present day town of Simcoe in Norfolk County.

In 1815 Englishman John Mason heard about iron ore deposits in the area and began to construct a furnace at this spot.
Unfortuantely for Mason he died before completing his construction project. But, within a few years three men from New York arrived on the scene and in partnership began to rebuild Mason's furnace and establish an iron works. One of the three was Joseph Van Norman, for whom the community came to be known.

In 1823, the Normandale furnace started to produce but Van Norman's two partners left to pursue other interests. George Tillson constructed a forge twenty miles away and the settlement that grew up around it came to be called Tillsonburg. The other partner, Hiram Capron developed an interest in gypsum which he found in large quantities on the Grand River. He subsequently founded the town of Paris.

Van Norman and his brother Benjamin operated their furnace for at least 25 years before the local supply of bog ore was depleted. During this time, they developed one of the first blast furnaces in North America.  Their blast utilized bellows fashioned from hollowed-out tree trunks and powered by a water-driven overshot wheel.  By capturing and using waste heat from the furnace they were able to give their ore a hot blast of air. They also devised a new and improved method of making their own charcoal to fire the furnace.

The Normandale Foundry manufactured a variety of cast iron objects but their most important product however was the Van Norman stove. These were sold as far west as Chicago and as far east as Montreal. A merchant in 1838 Toronto advertised the sale of "1,000 stoves of all sizes" of the "justly celebrated Van Norman cooking stove".

The main reason for their popularity was the fact that the stove was not held together by cement and bolts but instead by its own weight. Fashioned from individual plates it could be easily dismantled for storage. The side pieces fit snuggly into the grooves in the bottom plate; the corners were joined by a tongue and groove joint. The heavy upper plate when placed on the stove kept the whole assembly rigid.

A rare example of this stove and many other examples of their wares can be seen in the Norfolk Heritage Centre today.

Source: Arthur, Eric Iron Toronto: U of T Press, 1982

Rare War of 1812 Medal Donated

A rare and historically important War of 1812 veterans’ medal was bequeathed to the Norfolk Historical Society in 2005 by the late Eric Silk. The medal was awarded to Aaron Slaght, Townsend Township,  for his War of 1812 service, and includes a Battle of Fort Detroit bar. These scarce medals were not given out until 1848 when some of the original veterans were still living (34 years after the War ended). More than 100 years ago,  E. A. Owen wrote in 1898 that one  of Elder Aaron Slaght family’s most prized family heirlooms was “the silver medal won by his father, Aaron Slaght, in the war of 1812.” Only one other such medal—for Col. Titus Williams—has come to our collections over the past 107 years.