The Black Bearded Barbarian: George Leslie Mackay

Mackay statueGeorge Leslie Mackay, was born on March 21, 1844 in Zorra Township, Oxford County to George Mackay and Helen Sutherland (Scottish immigrants) and was the youngest of six children.

After teaching elementary school for several years, he was able to earn enough money to enroll in theological studies at the Toronto Knox College.  He also studied at Princeton Seminary, the University of Edinburgh and Queen’s University where he earned his Doctor of Divinity degree.  Among his other achievements, he was elected to the highest honor the church could bestow, Moderator of the General Assembly and the Presbyterian Church of Canada.

A month after he was ordained (September 18, 1871), his journey began.  He left his home in Oxford County and boarded a ship destined for Formosa.  It would be the longest trip of his life, but also the most rewarding.

He arrived in Kaohsiung (aka Takao) Formosa on December 29, 1871.  He spent six months visiting the English Presbyterian missions in the Chinese port of Shantou and in south Formosa, before travelling to the northern part of the island.  As he laid his eyes upon the green mountains on the island it was clear to him that this was where his life’s work would be.

Aware that in order to pass his message of hope along to the people, he had to learn the language, he set this difficult task for himself. He applied himself by learning 100 characters per day and within three months of his arrival; he was fluent in the local language. He actually learned the dialect from young shepherd boys he met on his travels. To make things easier for his students, he created a dictionary of 10,000 characters that was used for several decades.

Mackay had a message to deliver to the good people of Formosa, now known as Taiwan, and he had to come up with a way to deliver it.  By combining his dental/medical practice with that of his Christian message, he was able to deliver on his goal of physically and spiritually helping the people.

George Leslie Mackay has always been a man who forged his own path.  Another way he was noted for individualism was by marrying a lovely Taiwanese woman, TuiN Chhang-MiaN.

She became known to all as “Minnie Mackay.”  Minnie proved to be a powerful draw to the mission and in raising funds (during their furlough in Oxford County in 1881-82) for the construction of Oxford College (now Aletheia University) in Tamsui.

A little known fact about G.L. Mackay was that he was an Oxford College today_0001enthusiastic collector of cultural artifacts and specimens of local flora and fauna.  Much of what he gathered has formed the basis of a museum at Oxford College.  Also, in the ethnology department of the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, you will also find artifacts collected by Mackay.

Writing was another passion Mackay enjoyed and he helped to print the first newspaper on the island which, of course was a church bulletin in Taiwanese.  He was determined to get his message out to all the people.

In 2008, an Opera celebrating Mackay’s life was performed in Taiwan.  It was the world’s first-ever Taiwanese/English-language opera.

This exceptional man dedicated his life to bringing medical, dental and spiritual help to the people of Formosa/Taiwan.  Mackay helped to establish more than 60 local churches, Oxford College (Aletheia University), the first girls’ school (Tamsui Girls’ School on the east side of Oxford College in 1884), and Tamsui middle school (this school went through many restructurings and name changes before ending as the Tamkang Senior High School).

Mackay opened his first “hospital”, (inviting Dr. Ringer who served the English business community in Tanshui to help with the medical work) in 1873, but the first true western clinic “The Mackay Clinic” didn’t open until 1880 in Tanshui.  This clinic was not originally named after Mackay but after an American shipping captain from Detroit. The captain’s wife donated $3000 (US) to establish this hospital honoring her recently departed husband.  After Mackay died, operations at the hospital were suspended for five years. In 1906 a Canadian missionary doctor James Young Ferguson reopened it with the endorsement of the Canadian Presbyterian Church, changing the name to the “Mackay Memorial Hospital”.

Rev. George Leslie Mackay passed away in 1901 of throat cancer and is buried in Tamsui, the place he called “home”.

Some last words from G.L. Mackay (1844-1901)

“O Formosa, so far away and so beautiful.

You are the love of my life.  I love you all, each and every one of you,

regardless of your origin and the past.  To serve you with the only

Good news I know.  Here is my life for you, a thousand times more….”


This poem was written by Rev. George Leslie Mackay, D.D.

It was a translation from a Chinese version, not a direct quote.

Included below is a timeline of this extraordinary man’s life:

 George Leslie Mackay

1844 – Born March 21 in Zorra Township, Oxford County of Oxford

1850-55 – Attended public schools in Oxford CountyMackay teaching

1858 – Graduated from Toronto Teachers’ College

1859 – Taught at Maitland Public School

1860 – Enrolled at Knox College, University of Toronto, to study Theology

1861 – Transferred to Princeton Seminary for advanced studies

1871 – Graduated from Princeton Seminary; assigned to Newmarket Presbyterian Church   (north of Toronto); also preached at Mt. Albert Church

1871 – Applied to Canadian Presbyterian Church Headquarters for an overseas posting

 1871 – Attended Edinburgh University Seminary, Scotland, under Dr. Alexander Duff.  In June, the Presbyterian Church Overseas Department approved his application to serve in China/Taiwan.  He left for China I October, arriving at Kaohsiung on December 30.

1872 – On March 9, Rev. Mackay arrived at Tamsui with Rev. Ritchie.  On April 10, they opened the Tamsui Presbyterian Church.   Mackay learned the Taiwanese dialect from young shepherd boys he met during his travels.  After three months, he preached his first sermon in his new language – Taiwanese.

1873 – On January 9, the first baptism was performed on five followers at the Tamsui Church.  Known as the “Black Barbarian”, Mackay travelled extensively throughout northern Taiwan and worked with aboriginals there.

1874 – Since there were no dentists in Taiwan, Mackay found that extracting teeth was to become an important part of his medical services.  It is said that he extracted over 21,000 teeth.

1878 – May 27, Rev. Mackay married Miss TiuN Chhang-miaN, the church’s first female convert.

1879 -  Their first child, Mary, was born on May 24.

1880 – Mackay brought his family to Canada to report to Church Headquarters.  The Mackay’s second child, Bella, was born in September.  An Honourary Doctor of Divinity degree was bestowed on George Leslie Mackay from Queen’s University.

1880 – Mackay raised funds in Oxford County to help build Oxford College (Taiwan).

1881 – The Mackay family returned home to Taiwan at the end of November.

1882 – William Mackay was born in Tamsui on January 22.   Tamsui Oxford College was officially established in July and the school opened the following September.

1883 – The Tamsui Women’s College was completed and opened on March 3.

1893 – In September, the Mackay family returned to Canada for the second (and last) time. The draft of From Far Formosa was left with the Presbyterian Church.

1894 – Dr. Mackay was elected Moderator of The Presbyterian Church in Canada.

1899 – On March 9, the 27th anniversary of Mackay’s arrival in Taiwan, both of his daughters were married, with the Rev. William Gauld officiating.

1900 – In May, Dr. Mackay inspected some of the more than forty churches established in the northern plains of Taiwan for the last time.

1900 – In November, he sought treatment for throat cancer in Hong Kong.

1901 – Dr. Mackay returned to Taiwan in serious condition.  He died at the age of 58 years in his Tamsui residence. Following his request, he was buried in the Mackay Cemetery in Tamsui on June 4. An inspiration to the evangelical mission movement, Mackay is remembered as a national hero in his adopted home of Taiwan.

Plaque in Embro Park:

plaques in Embro

Reverend George Leslie Mackay

Son of Scots immigrants, Presbyterian missionary George Mackay was born near Embro in Zorra Township.  In 1872, he founded the first Canadian overseas mission in Tamsui, Taiwan.  An unconventional character, but sensitive to local needs, Mackay practiced lay dentistry and trained local clergy.  He married a Taiwanese woman, TuiN Chhang-MiaN, and had three children.  The “Black Bearded Barbarian” worked in north Taiwan until his death, establishing 60 chapels, several schools and a hospital.  In 1881, he raised funds here in Oxford County to help build Oxford College, Tamsui, which later became a university.  He was also an outspoken opponent of Canadian head tax on Chinese immigrants.  An inspiration to the evangelical missions movement in Ontario, Mackay remains a national hero in Taiwan.

Ontario Heritage Foundation, an agency of the Government of Ontario.

(Research Information provided by M. Gladwin, Archivist, County of Oxford Archives)

For more information:

Tourism Oxford

580 Bruin Blvd, Woodstock, ON N4V 1E5

519-539-9800 x 3355

Posted By:  Debbie Solta, Cultural Events Coordinator

Tourism Oxford

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Year of the Snowy Owl – By Guest Blogger Richard Skevington


Photo by Cathy Bingham taken in the Bright Area

This winter has been one of the best times in the last 50 years to see a Snowy Owl in Oxford County.  We were made aware of this when word was received that over 200 birds were seen in one mid-November outing at Cape Spear Newfoundland.  The potential was there for a good migration movement south, scientists having recorded record numbers of fledged young as a result of the abundant Lemming population.

Snowy Owls nest on the Arctic Tundra.  Their nest is built on a rise of land, giving them a good view when searching for food or watching for predators.  They will migrate when their source of food starts to run out,  generally  only going as far as they need to survive.  When in the Arctic, their main food source is Lemmings and  other rodents.  As they go south,  their  diet changes to include mice, rats, ducks, rabbits and small birds.

This year, they have taken up winter residence in Oxford County near the villages of Hickson and Bright being  more numerous near the village of Bright  where we have counted 7 different individuals.  They can be found along Concessions 12, 13 and 14 north of Bright.  Their favourite daytime roosting spot is at the top of farmers’ silos.  The best time to see them is late afternoon up until dark when they become active in their hunt for food.

Snowy Owls tend to be shy, so if you see one, enjoy the view from where you are.  Binoculars would be most helpful and a scope just makes it easier to see these magnificent owls.  Please do not trespass.  These owls are normally on someone’s private property.

Enjoy while you can.  It could be another lifetime before this happens again.

Guest Blogger ~ Richard Skevington

Posted by Jeanne Turner, Tourism Oxford

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Ingersoll Choral Society prepares for “The Wicked Wizard of Oz” – Guest Blogger Jim Fox

wickedwizTo be performed on January 16 – 18 at ITOPA in Ingersoll and directed by Holly Langohr, “The Wicked Wizard of Oz” is an ingenious melding of two broadway hits – “Wicked” and “The Wizard of Oz”.

It promises to be an exciting and fun show, featuring many favourite tunes from both productions, a few green witches, a wizard, and lots of Munchkins!

There are four performances to choose from: Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 7 pm, and a Saturday matinee at 1 pm. All tickets are $20 and are available at Patina’s in
Ingersoll, or contact Glenn at 519-485-1938 or

Ms Langohr, in describing the production, says “The music is uplifting, heartwarming and truly comical. There will be old beloved songs as well as brand new songs that
will take the audience on a unique journey through Oz.”

The Ingersoll Choral Society was founded to provide a greater musical challenge for choral singers in the community. Members come from a wide area, ranging from Woodstock to
Kitchener. A friendly and fun atmosphere is fostered while producing a minimum of two shows annually and appearing at community events. ICS is a non-profit organization.

The choir meets Monday evenings at the Creative Arts Centre in Ingersoll. New members are welcome. If you think you might be interested in giving us a try, please contact Holly
Langohr: 226-984-1957 or . Visit for more information or find us on Facebook.

For more blogs by Jim Fox visit or


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Black History Month – Remembering Oxford’s Past Guest Blogger – Heather A. Rennalls

Since 1995, February has been designated Black History Month in Canada. Regionally, the Opening Celebration for Black History Month will be held Saturday February 1st at Museum London from 1-4 pm.  For the ninth year I will be participating in this free event with my display “Almost Forgotten: Black History in Oxford County.” Organized by the London Black History Coordinating Committee, the theme for this year’s Black History Month is “Preserving Our Heritage.”  Various cultural groups and service providers will be present with their arts, crafts, entertainment, music and delicious food. COBA (Collective Of Black Artists) will provide a special dance performance.  It will be a great event!

The purpose of Black History Month is to educate the public of the many missing pages of history that failed to mention black people, their struggles, triumphs and the contributions they made throughout Canadian history. Black people are woven into the fabric of this country but have been forgotten in books on early history. The first black person to arrive on Canadian shores over 400 years ago was Mathieu Da Costa. Mathieu_da_costaA free black man, he was a pioneer, translator, an interpreter and an explorer. As a member of the expedition party of the French explorers Pierre Dugua and Samuel de Champlain, Da Costa arrived in Canada in 1605. Due to his knowledge of several languages: Dutch, English, French, Portuguese and pidgin Basque, the dialect of many Aboriginals, Da Costa was employed by many explorers. He served as an interpreter between the French and the Micmac Indians, which helped to bridge the gap between these two groups.

Also forgotten in our history books is the mention that slavery existed in Canada from 1628 until 1834 when the British Parliament passed the Emancipation Proclamation on August 1st, still celebrated today as Emancipation Day. (Natasha Henry’s book Emancipation Day Celebrating Freedom in Canada explores the evolution and meaning of Emancipation Day in Canada.) The first known recorded black slave brought to Canada came from Madagascar. Captured in Africa at six years of age, Olivier La Jeune was transported to Quebec in 1628 by Sir David Kirke who owned him. When Kirke left the country in 1629, Olivier was sold several times. Father Paul La Jeune was his last owner. In 1633, he had him baptized Catholic and given the name Olivier Le Jeune. Olivier died on Canadian soil in 1654 at the age of thirty.

Most of the slaves were family servants for wealthy officials or for families living in urban areas. Unlike the large plantations in the United States where a large number of slaves were owned, Canadian households which had slaves tended to have one slave who was a domestic servant, a farm hand or a skilled artisan. A slave usually served the same family during his or her lifetime.  The majority of slaves in Canada originated from either the French West Indies or the colonies of British North America. Of the total brought to Canada, about 40% were females and 60% were males. A good read about Canadian slavery and the burning of Old Montreal, is the book by Dr. Afua Cooper The Hanging of Angelique. Also, read about the chronicles of over a hundred slaves, including Harriet Tubman, who escaped bondage in the United States to freedom in Canada via the Underground Railroad in Benjamin Drew’s book The Narratives of Fugitive Slaves.

There were many well-established and thriving black communities throughout Canada and locally, but they have long since disappeared and are almost forgotten. There are few or no monuments to commemorate those long-gone hamlets of early black settlers or to acknowledge them.  One reason why history was not recorded is that people did not record their stories, being too busy struggling to survive. Furthermore, stories were not passed on to their children due to the shame associated with the past: slavery. Black History Month is the one time of the year these communities are brought back to life: to be acknowledged and remembered as the thriving settlements they once were. In Oxford County, Black History Month is a time to acknowledge these long-forgotten communities as part of Oxford County’s history.

During the 1800s, many black people made their way to Oxford County.  However, not all black people who came here were slaves.  Many were free blacks who were trying to eke out a living and many contributed to their communities like Ingersoll, Otterville, Norwich Township and Woodstock. My display, “Almost Forgotten: Black History in Oxford County” consists of numerous articles I have written since 2000, pertaining to the Black History in Oxford County. I also display various Canadian and American books on this subject to inform the public of information that is available. One local book A Safe Haven The Story of the Black Settlers of Oxford County is written by another local Historian Joyce Pettigrew. A video on Oxford County’s Black history was also produced.

I first became intrigued with Black History in Oxford County when a friend took me to the Black Cemetery in Otterville, almost 22 years ago, after moving to Woodstock.

 African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery, Otterville

Black Cemetary

 (Photo taken by Heather A. Rennalls)

I was both surprised and pleased to know that this even existed, which piqued my interest to know more. I was fortunate to meet the now late Mary Evans Smith who told me about the large black population that existed in Ingersoll during the 1800s. In Southwestern Ontario at that time, Ingersoll was second only to Chatham in the size of its black community. Of Ingersoll’s population of some 2,000, about 400 were black.

If you attend the Opening Celebration for Black History Month, you will enjoy an afternoon of comradeship, fine entertainment and great food (including Gunn’s Hill Cheese). You will also find out about the rest of the rich and vibrant stories pertaining to the Black History in Oxford County that was almost forgotten.

Please also take a moment to learn more about Oxford County’s Black History by visiting the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum , Norwich & District Museum and the African Methodist Episcopal Cemetery. You can also watch a video on Oxford’s history called The Last Stop

Heather A. Rennalls   A local Historian and a Freelance Writer and Photographer


Other Black History Month Events:

Chatham-Kent Black History Month

Ontario Heritage Trust

Sites on Black Canadian History: 

Ontario Black History Society

Historica Canada   

Canadian Museum of History

African Canadian Online

HARRIOTT  TUBMAN  St. Catharines Ontario CANADA

Historica Canada

Active History Matters

Black History Month: Hero’s of the Underground Railroad

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Beauty through the Eye of a Camera Lens – Just A Few Fotos

As you walk in the door of Janice Marshall’s home, where her gallery is located, you immediately get the feeling that you are welcome.  Janice warmly greets you with a smile and a “Hi, come on in” charm that sets the tone for your experience at Just a Few Fotos.Copy of DSC_0277  As well as Janice, you are greeted by Biscuit her ever loving and ever so interested large grey cat.  Together they take you on a truly magical photo experience.

The gallery is full of photographs lovingly shot from Janice’s travels, but that’s not all.  As well as the beautiful photographs for sale are mugs, cards and gift bags.  Each design is unique and has a story behind it.  To Janice a picture is not a picture but the essence of that subjects “Spirit”!

One of the reasons that Janice does what she does is because of the “heartfelt reactions of the visitors to the gallery”.  Janice gets so much joy out of her visitors when they make a connection with a piece of art in the gallery.  Many have heard of Janice’s work but when they come to the gallery, she often hears “Oh! so this is what you do”, she does not “just” take pictures, she creates connections.

Of all her many diverse photographs, Janice enjoys photographing animals, particularly cows and horses. Copy of DSC_0273As she has lived on a farm all of her life, Janice has a soulful connection to these magnificent and majestic animals.  Janice says she feels the animal’s spirit come alive through her lens.   Not only will you find photographs of cows and horses in the gallery, but original and one of a kind shots of Giraffes, Tigers, Foxes and many other animals.

Janice loves to take pictures of people too.  She loves to capture the expressions of people during a special occasion, such as Weddings, Anniversaries and Family Reunions.  Jokingly Janice commented that sometimes when she brings her camera to a Wedding she gets lost in capturing that perfect picture, and misses the other things going on around her!  When you are in “that creative zone it is hard to leave it” she laughs.  No matter what “zone” she is in you will find her having a wonderful time.

Not only does Janice run a successful gallery, but together with her husband Phil they operate an equally successful horse-drawn sleigh and wagon ride adventure lovingly named Ci-Nick Acres Horse Drawn Wagon and Sleigh Rides.

Beyond the house is the barn which houses four rather large but amazingly stunning Percheron horses that happily pull the sleigh and wagon.  Two females, Ruby and Bunny and Martin and Jacktwo males, Jack and Marty make up the team.  The size of these animals is enormous but their heart is even bigger.  They live to pull the sleigh or the wagon and delight both adult and children with their awesome spirit!

Once hitched up to the sleigh or wagon, these majesticCopy of DSC_0268 beauties take you on a memory filled; relax inducing experience that you will remember for years to come.  This is truly a magical step back in time to a slower pace where families could share fun, laughter and special memories.  I suggest booking your ride adventure today!

The talent of this woman, along with her husband needs to be experienced, so stop by, lose yourself in a photograph and don’t forget to ask for the story behind the picture, you’ll be glad you did!

Contact Information

Just A Few Fotos

445574 Gunn’s Hill Rd, RR #4, Woodstock, ON  N4S 7V8


Posted By:  Debbie Solta, Cultural Events Coordinator

Tourism Oxford

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Forgotten New Year’s Resolutions

Generally, people think of the future at this time of year. They question what the next year will bring and attempt to make formidable resolutions, even though they know these resolutions will be long forgotten by the end of January. After thorough and exhaustive research, I have uncovered some forgotten New Year’s resolutions by some of this county’s more memorable individuals.

In 1891 Edwin Tillson promised himself that he would limit his morning oat meal intake from two cups to one cup in order to fit into a new pair of britches.

In 1885 Cassie Chadwick promised to pay closer attention to the newspapers for word of any rich man in town.


In 1917 Joe Boyle promised that with the coming of the new year he would read up on Romanian history.


In 1889, Reginald Birchall promised his wife Florence that he would take her some place warm the following year.

Amee Simpleton

In 1925, Aimee Sample MacPherson made sketches for two churches to be built in Oxford County.


In 1867, Dr. Emily Stowe promised to stop reading romance novels and to only read medical books from now on.

In 1882, George Leslie MacKay promised he would write home more.

In 1860, while shopping in Innerkip, Thomas Cook promised himself that he would spend more money on hats rather than whiskey.

With New Year’s resolutions the idea is to challenge yourself on a small scale, then achieve it. Want to save money? Start by limiting your daily coffees. Want to keep your head? Sorry Thomas, I can’t help you there.

Happy New Year!

P. Stadden

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The Elm Hurst Inn & Spa – A pleasurable experience from start to finish!

front viewDid you know that before it was The Elm Hurst Inn & Spa, the property was used as the James Harris Cheese Factory in 1865?  James Harris was one of the leading cheese makers in Oxford County.  It was the birthplace of the famous “mammoth” 7,300 pound wheel of cheese that travelled to Toronto, New York, France and England. Speaking of cheese, The Elm Hurst Inn & Spa is also one of the stops along Oxford County’s famous “Cheese Trail”.  At one time it was also an apple orchard.  This property has had many transformations before becoming the elegant and stylish Elm Hurst Inn & Spa.

What is now the restaurant, in 1872 was part of a private residence built for James Harris and his family.  This home, built in the Gothic Revival style, remained the family home for more than a century.

The property was sold in the mid 1970’s, by the last Harris heir.  A major transformation turned the property into a very popular dining establishment which opened in 1979.  Five years later an addition was added to the rear of the original building, with the 49-room Elm Hurst Inn & Spa being built in 1988.

One of the more popular venues with Weddings and Conferences is the original 19th-century Carriage House.  The major draw is the rustic wooden beams on the celling.  History runs deep throughout the Mansion so stop for a moment and savor the richness of it all.

As you drive through the front gate at the Elm Hurst Inn & Spa, you will immediately feel that this is going to be no ordinary hotel stay.  Attention to detail is reflected everywhere beginning with the beautifully manicured grounds to the original Victorian design in each of the Inn’s guest rooms.

Upon entering the main lobby you will be warmly greeted by one of the Inn’s highly trained customer service staff, whose main desire is to ensure your stay is a pleasurable one.  As you check in take note of all the amenities the hotel has to offer, such as the Aveda Spa, Guest Lounge, Business & Fitness Centers and for ultimate relaxation try the hot tub, sauna or steam room.   Whether you are staying for business or pleasure the staff at the Elm Hurst Inn & Spa will help make it a memorable one!

The main part of the house was built in 1872 and has been kept to its original roots.  A quality proudly maintained over the years.  As business grew, expansion was necessary and a modern feel was added to the rest of the Inn.  Great care was taken to ensure that a “tranquil flow” throughout the whole establishment was maintained. This was done so as not to lose any of the original charm of the house, but offer patrons all the modern touches required by today’s savvy traveler.

The beauty of the Inn and grounds really needs to be explored.  ehi_patioDuring the summer months, take a stroll around the gardens and embrace the tranquil feeling you get from being around nature.  After a breathtaking stroll on the grounds, relax with a beverage on the patio and take in an evening of entertainment from one of the amazing performers booked by the Inn.  In the winter curl up in the lounge listening to that weekends exciting entertainment.

What better way to relax than a spa treatment.  The Aveda Spa is ready to make your relaxation dreams come true with one of their stress releasing treatments.  They offer Manicures, Pedicures, Facials, Massages and Body Therapy.  Any part of your body that needs to be rejuvenated the Aveda Spa can help.  Why not try a relaxing body wrap or bath, sheer pleasure and good for you too!  Only quality products are used in every treatment offered by the Aveda Spa.  Book one today!

No write up about The Elm Hurst Inn & Spa would be complete without mentioning that the food lives up to the ambiance of the Inn, especially their delicious Sunday Brunch and their highly successful themed nights throughout the year.

Not only is this an amazing place to stay, but it also is a great place to hold that special function.  The Elm Hurst Inn & Spa would like to be your choice for a Wedding, Anniversary of any other function you’d like to celebrate.  Are you looking to hold a meeting, why not choose one of their facilities to hold it in?

If you’re looking for an outstanding experience in fine dining, relaxation, pampering or pure pleasure than book a stay at The Elm Hurst Inn & Spa today.  Your adventure in extraordinary accommodations awaits!

Contact Information

The Elm Hurst Inn & Spa

415 Harris Street, Ingersoll, ON  N5C 3J8

1-800-561-5321 or 519-485-5321 x239

Posted By:  Debbie Solta, Cultural Events Coordinator

Tourism Oxford

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Home, Heart and Hospitality all in one place that’s Quehl’s of Tavistock!

Picture 010Nestled between Woodstock and Stratford is the loving little village of Tavistock, home to one of Oxford County’s best restaurants.  Of course I’m speaking of Quehl’s (pronounced like the bird Quail).  Delicious meals since 1931!

Prior to Quehl’s taking residence in the building, it was used as a piano dealership and a farm machinery sales office.   Another use for the space was a car showroom operated by Andrew Baechler.  It just goes to show that when you have a good thing, it stays for a while and Quehl’s Restaurant is just that item.  Although the Restaurant has changed hands over the years, the idea of serving the community the best possible food has remained.

The restaurant was started in 1931 by Old Joe Steinman and he aptly named it “Joe’s Place”.  It began as a lunch counter, tobacco shop and barber shop. Joe had a son Clarence “Hap” Steinman who joined him in 1946 and together they incorporated the bowling lanes, which were located at the rear of the restaurant, into the facilities now used for banquets.

Through a partnership formed in 1959 between “Hap” and Les Rogers the name was changed to “Les & Haps”.  After Les’s retirement in 1972 and Hap’s selling the business, to his nephew Joe Steinmen, the name was returned to “Joe’s Place” until it was purchased by Bill Quehl in 1981.

Quehl's Dinning RoomUpon purchasing the restaurant, Bill closed down the bowling alley, used the solid oak lanes to form many of the dining tables and renovated the original dining area to what is present today.  At this time he also acquired the 40 year old catering business from his grandmother, Ruby.

Another major renovation was done when in 1987; Ruth and Steve Cahill purchased the restaurant and neighboring buildings including the Weicker’s butcher shop and the Weicker House.  The restaurant had new owners, but the name Quehl’s remained the same. In order to have a capacity to seat 250 guests, the neighboring buildings were joined together with the original building, by inclosing the alleyway that ran between the restaurant and the Weicher butcher shop.  In 1993 a new partnership was formed with the current owners, Cindy and Brian Larson, and together, until the Cahill’s retirement in 1996, continued in the tradition of exceptional customer service.

Quehl’s has always maintained that small home town quality in everything they do.  Respect for each owner, and their contributions in making this restaurant what it is today, is evident in the names of each dining room.  There is the “Old Joe’s Room, Ruby Quehl Room, Weicker Room and the “Les & Hap’s Room” each unique and reflective of a bygone era.

As you enter the building’s main entrance be sure to look for the grooves made by the hub of the wheels scraping against the brick from the horse drawn wagons rounding the corner to the barn.  At the turn of the century, the alley way, now the main entrance, is what once led you to the rear barns for the Weickers butcher shop.  Interesting!

Great food is not the only thing Quehl’s is known for, it is also known for being somewhat of a Museum, with artifacts from the Tavistock area.  Some items dating back more than a century!

Success of the restaurant isn’t the only thing Quehl’s has to brag about, their catering business is heading into its 60th year!  Sixty years of amazing recipes, many of them still used today.  No event is too small or too large for Quehl’s to cater, they have catered events as large as 5,500 guests.  Now that’s some accomplishment!  On average, in the past 10 years Quehl’s has served 150,000 meals a year.  That’s a lot of meals!

With such close proximity to live Theatres, large motor coach tours have made dining at Quehl’s one of the favorite ways to begin or end an evening out.

Any successful business knows that you must adapt and Quehl’s is no exception.  With the changing food diets of people, Quehl’s has come up with an Eat Smart menu, Gluten Free items, is Smoke Free and Allergy conscious.  So accommodating any dietary requirement is not a problem for their kitchen staff.

As the years have rolled on and changes have been made, each owner has been meticulous in recording these changes.  As you enjoy your meal, take a moment to look at all the pictures on the walls, they tell a story rich in the history of Quehl’s and the village of Tavistock.  You’ll find yourself comparing past and present events.  A reminder of the past is skillfully reflected in the railway motif and the models of vintage cars.

Step back in time when comfort food was normal, community meant everyday involvement and customer service was doing that little bit extra.  Visit Quehl’s today for breakfast, lunch or dinner and experience great food, great hospitality and a warm welcome!

Contact Information

Quehl’s of Tavistock

33 Woodstock St. South

Tavistock, ON       519-655-2835

Posted By:  Debbie Solta, Cultural Events Coordinator

Tourism Oxford

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The Oxford Historical Society – A gateway to the past!

Front of BuildingExploring Oxford County’s history can be fun, informative and downright amazing!  You never know who or what you will find when looking into the past. One organization that could make your journey into history easier is The Oxford Historical Society.

The Society was founded in 1897 to preserve and promote the history of Oxford County, in south-west Ontario.  Over the last 100 years, the Society has diligently strived to further public interest in the history of the county and maintain its records for future generations to access.

What exactly does the Society do you ask?  Below is a short list of their many responsibilities:

Preservation – preserving important historical accounts through accurate recording of oral histories and interviews with Oxford County residents knowledgeable about the area.

Promotion – promoting the need to preserve and maintain the historic private and municipal buildings in Oxford County.

Develop – create interesting brochures for the historical walking and driving tours of Oxford County.

Maintain – accurate and through maintenance of the archival collection of material about Woodstock and Oxford County.

Assist – helpful assistance to students and visitors researching Woodstock and Oxford County’s rich and diverse history.

Publish – creating and publishing an interesting and information quarterly newsletter.

If you would you like to learn more about the Society, why not join one of their free monthly meetings held in the Meeting Room at the Woodstock Public Library on the last Wednesday of each month, January to May, as well as October and November?  Time is 7:00 sharp!  When available, special guest speakers, knowledgeable about some aspect of the city or county history are scheduled for each meeting. For more information please visit their website at

Would you like to become more involved with the Society, why not join then.  Membership is only $25 for a single and $30 for a family.  It could be an experience you’ll never forget!

One of the members of the Oxford Historical Society is Kathie Richards.  Kathie has been with the organization since 1971 and has always had a love for history, especially Canadian history.  One of Kathie’s previous jobs was working for the library, how much more immersed in history can you get?  Kathie, along with the other history lovers in the society, are always ready to help someone discover Oxford County’s rich history. Inquiries on local information have come from all over, as far as the Yukon.

One of the favorite items presented by the Society is the Historical Walking and Driving tours.  Each tour is unique, informative and filled with information about buildings, places and characters in Oxford County.  Whether on foot or in a vehicle, you’re sure to discover something you never knew about the area.

Another great event put on by the Society is the annual Spirit of Christmas House tour.  Each year 4 or 5 gracious Woodstock homeowners open their homes to the public. Each home has its own special charm and is skillfully decorated. It is a highlight of the Christmas season.

I have briefly touched on some of the extraordinary things this organization does, why not see for yourself today!   History can be fun and filled with surprise, see what surprises you!

Contact Information

Oxford Historical Society

82 Light St. (Court House Square) Woodstock, ON

Mailing Address:  Box 20091, Woodstock, ON N4S 8X8


Posted By:  Debbie Solta, Cultural Events Coordinator

Tourism Oxford

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Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre – Where creative desire explodes!

Ingersoll Creative Arts CentreCreativity is the ultimate form of expression and express you will with one of the many classes offered at the Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre.  Do you have an inner Picasso just dying to be let free, why not try a Fine Art class.  Discover which medium your prefer watercolor or acrylic?  Would you rather mold your creativity into shape, try a pottery class?  Would you like to combine beauty and practicality, take a Quilting class?  Would you like to be able to wear your piece of art, then try a Fibre Art class?  Do you have a creative child; they offer children’s classes too!  To partake in any of these classes, membership is required.  Why not feed that creative desire and become a member today!

A variety of artist exhibitions are run throughout the year showcasing local talent.  Exhibits run for approximately five weeks ensuring that all artists’ work is displayed. Variety is a key factor when it comes to drawing people into the gallery.

Once inside the Centre, don’t miss the opportunity to browse through the gift shop.  Items made by member artists are on display and for sale.  If unique is what you are looking for, this is the place to find it!

Along with the extremely hard working Administrator, Heather Macintosh, are the Centre’s volunteers.  These dedicated people help to ensure the success of the Centre.  Everyone there is there for a purpose, the purpose of bringing joy and creativity to life.  Hours of hard work and a strong commitment to the Centre can be seen in every aspect of the Centre’s facility.

Whether it is organizing the annual Quilt raffle, preparing for a fundraising event or getting ready for an Opening Reception of an Artist’s exhibit, Heather MacIntosh and the volunteers put in 100% effort.  Bring people into the Centre not only to see the wonderful artists’ creations but enticing them to become a member is one of the goals of the Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre.  Once you become a member, and that inner artist is released, you’ll find yourself convincing family and friends to join too!

So I say to you, visit the Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre and see for yourself what I’m talking about.  Passion should never be quieted, so don’t let fear stop you from realizing the inner artist in you, join today!

Contact Information

Ingersoll Creative Arts Centre

125 Centennial Lane (Victoria Park, Wellington St. Entrance)

Ingersoll, ON  N5C 3V3        519-485-4691

Posted by:  Debbie Solta, Cultural Events Coordinator

Tourism Oxford

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