Five Family Fun things to do this long weekend!

Everyone looks forward to the Civic Long Weekend which happens to be August 2-4th.  There is nothing like the middle of summer except a perfect long weekend. And the perfect weekend can be done, even in Oxford County.

Staycationing right now seems popular with a lot of people since pennies aren’t stretched as far these days. Oh wait, we don’t have pennies anymore! Let me rephrase that… nickles aren’t stretched as far these days!!!

Well, if you are sticking around or even visiting Oxford County for the weekend and you are looking for fun things for your family to do, I have a few suggestions…


Splish, Splash, Play at Lake Lisgar Waterpark

If you haven’t discovered Lake Lisgar Water Park yet, you are in for a treat!  Everyone likes to get wet, and this pool is very inviting for all ages with a graduated entry.  It’s perfect for little ones who just want to play in a few inches of water, or for anyone who would just like to wade into the pool without having to jump in or climb a ladder. Of course there are all the fun slides, spray hoses and water activities too. The sparkling water is just so inviting!

Leaping Deer

So much fun at Leaping Deer Adventure Farm & Market

If you love farm animals, big & small, ducks, lamas, pigs and owls or take on the challenge of exploring the Corn Maze, make Leaping Deer Adventure Farm a place to visit.  Better yet, check out their website and have your children click on their sign post at the upper right corner and then on Farmer Budd and see what happens.  Be sure you have your volume on.



What a Squeaky Cheesy place to play!

I have visited the Ingersoll Cheese and Agricultural Museum many times and have found the history very interesting, and a little culture never hurt anyone. I am sure you will get the feel of what it was like to go to an old school house, or how they made cheese and see items of yesteryear, but the real treat is the Cheesy playground out back.  Lots of Cheesy play equipment and a cheesy bench or two for you!  Perfect photo opportunity.  Keep it a secret until you get there.


“I feel a nibble! Do you!” “Nope. Are you sure you had a nibble?”

I remember when I was young, and the picnic cooler was on the kitchen table and my dad was in the garage rustling around, that meant we were going fishing!  Our family did this quite often when I was growing up.  When my dad was young, there wasn’t a ‘fishing hole’ around that he didn’t know about. Well August 2-3, Pittock Conservation Area is having a fishing derby. So, get your fishing gear ready and head on over.  You’ve never fished before and you don’t have a pole?  Well, don’t let that stop you. Call ahead and ask about their TackleShare program and give fishing a try.  You can purchase bait there as well.  Once you hook a fish and reel it in, you will be a fisherman/fisherwoman or fisherkid for life!

Picnic basket

Whats in your picnic basket?

I mentioned picnic basket/cooler above. Picnic’s always bring back special memories, whether it is like the fishing outings or family gatherings, or just a visit to the park.  Oxford County has so many lovely parks with wide open spaces to run, have an impromptu game of base ball, doge ball, throw a Frisbee or a game of tag. There are usually swings, slides and water of some sort, pond, river, or splash pad. A perfect place to create special memories with your family who will look back someday with fondness. If you are looking for parks, and need some yummy  ideas on what to pack for a picnic lunch, see our Tourism Oxford Pinterest Boards for some great treat ideas to pack and how to keep your food safe to eat.  Don’t forget you can take a portable BBQ too!  You can always stop at a bakery  and pick up some sweets or stop at a fresh fruit and vegetables stand or Farmers’ Market along the way.  The combinations are endless. Check out these Foodie stops to load up your basket.

Just remember to gather those close to you, your children, parents, brothers and sisters and include some good friends and have the best long weekend ever!

Created by Jeanne Turner, Tourism Oxford

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Telus sends customer soaring in a Harvard Aircraft

Soaring through the clouds is a dream for many. Telus made this dream a reality for Ramona, a twenty year Telus customer. Telus arranged a special day for Ramona and her daughter with a plane ride, but not an ordinary plane ride. They took to the air in a vintage WWII Harvard Aircraft at the Tillsonburg Regional Airport.

Shane Clayton, a pilot at the airport, did not realize how big this event was going to be. He was Harvards newman 1originally told it was a small birthday celebration. After viewing truck after truck entering the airport property, Shane realized this was indeed big. The video of Ramona’s flight has gone viral with 1,000s of views.

Telus connected with the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association which maintains a fleet of these vintage aircraft. A group of passionate volunteers restore, maintain, and fly these aircraft. They are a regular attraction at airshows and for visitors to Oxford County. Visitors can enjoy several unique experiences including tours of their workshop, air shows and flight experiences like Ramona enjoyed.

This September for the first time in Ontario, the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association and aviation photojournalist Eric Dumigan, will be hosting an Air-to-Air photo clinic.

Their location also has historical significance, being located at the Tillsonburg Regional Airport, which was once a Royal Canadian Air Force Training Airport. This airport is a popular location with the Harvard’s on site, Scenic Aerial Tours and Ontario’s South Coast Airshows (next show August 23).

You, too, can experience Ramona’s Harvard adventure. Tuesday’s and Saturdays the public can pop by to visit their hangar and learn about the aircraft, or contact them to book or purchase gift certificates for a flight experience.  What a unique gift indeed.

Created by Pamela Stadden


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“Amazing Race” for Award Winning Maple Syrup


“You have not been eliminated”.

You found it, that one elusive bottle of Jakeman’s maple syrup in a Chinese market, a long, very long way from its Canadian home in Sweaburg, Ontario.

The CBS show Amazing Race Canada profiled this product on last night’s episode, to the delight of Mary and Jakeman's syrupBob Jakeman, owners of Jakeman’s Maple Syrup Farm. Talking to Mary Jakeman, she said “it’s amazing!”

The Jakeman family was approached some three weeks before the broadcast and asked for their approval to showcase their maple syrup products. Papers were signed and the Jakeman family was sworn to secrecy. Mary said it was truly an honour to see our maple syrup on such a popular American/Canadian television show.

The Jakeman’s have been making maple syrup since 1876 when their ancestors George and Betty Jakeman, were taught to make maple syrup by local natives.  Their award winning maple syrup can been seen throughout the word from Disney World to a market in China. Jakeman’s Maple Syrup truly is a Canadian icon.
You can purchase their syrup at , or visit their shop in Sweaburg Ontario. As you wander the shop you find antique maple syrup tools and their vast array of maple products (including maple sugar).  Their shop is also home to the annual 4H Pancake breakfast ever March.  While there cross the road for a hike on the trail through Trillium Woods. People flock to it every spring to see the white and pink trilliums covering the forest floor.
Read more about Jakeman’s on

Blog created by Pamela Stadden


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SixThirtyNine Casual Fine Dining

Even more foodies from Chicago, Detroit, and Toronto will be driving down Peel Street in Woodstock to dine at Six Thirty Nine as they are the latest Ontario restaurant to receive Feast On accreditation.

Chef Eric plating in his kitchen with Chef's table looking on.

Chef Eric plating in his kitchen with Chef’s table looking on.

Chef Eric Boyar along with his mother Pauline Bucek had a vision for casual, fine dining restaurant SixThirtyNine when they opened almost 10 years ago. Offer guests a true farm-to-table experience with an innovative menu featuring fresh, local ingredients and to support the agricultural industry of Oxford County.

“My family all had farms and I wanted to maintain that connection,” explains Chef Eric who is a regular at the Saturday Farmers’ Market in Woodstock. “I wanted to do something different in the community and work together with our local farmers to feature local products. We list the producers, farmers and suppliers that we use to promote and direct people to where they can get the same products we use for our menu.”

Feast On certification assures local travelers and tourists of a unique dining experience that features Ontario growers and producers. At Six Thirty Nine you can enjoy fresh local produce, artisanal cheeses, beef and trout. “Feast On is all encompassing,” says Chef Eric. ”Aside from being food to table, the criteria includes VQA wines and craft breweries. It is important to us to work in partnership with local farmers, growers and producers. Our guests know they are supporting their local community. The more restaurants that become part of Feast On the better for everybody in Ontario Culinary Tourism.”

Chef Eric’s artistry, commitment to local food and fresh ingredients is making Downtown Woodstock and Oxford County a popular culinary tourism destination with foodies.

The pride of relationships he builds and maintains with community partners such as Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese and Railway City Brewing Company has garnered SixThirtyNine with awards making it a destination restaurant in Ontario.

Tourists on their way to Niagara from states such as Michigan visit based on traveler reviews posted on Trip Advisor where SixThirtyNine is ranked Woodstock’s #1 Restaurant.

SixThirtyNine was awarded Trip Advisor’s 2014 Certificate of Excellence earned through consistent, outstanding feedback from Trip Advisor Travelers

logoThis is not the first time Six Thirty Nine has been recognized for their commitment to local food. Earlier in 2014 they received an Agricultural Award of Excellence for Innovation from the Oxford County Federation of Agriculture (restaurant highlights video). SixThirtyNine also is a proud member of Oxford Fresh, a group of chefs, growers and processors whose mandate to promote regional fresh flavours includes Oxfordlicious, a month long celebration in September of local food and local eating.

“It is nice to be recognized and makes us keep pushing forward to do better,” explains Chef Eric. “It is rewarding to know we are giving people a unique dining experience they enjoy while sharing a common philosophy with the agricultural community.” As SixThirtyNine continues to be recognized and celebrated, the simple philosophy of working together as a community remains at the heart of its success.

Written by: Kathy Bruni




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The Big Cheese

Wagons move slowly when carrying cheese. The wheels of the wagon creak and slide on the stones in the road from the weight of such a cargo. Children will run along at its side amused by this unusual movement of cheese. Six horses must work diligently, careful not to let the wagon over turn. The driver will dispel with a call of whoa or faster, but horses take no warning, nor do children. Cheese is heavy.

This cheese was a cheese like no other and this outing was an anticipated event. Weighing in at 7,300 lbs when it tipped the scales at the James Harris Cheese Factory in 1866, its destination was New York and the World’s Fair. This cheese, though, would not stop there but continue on to England and perhaps impress royalty. There, Oxford County was already becoming known for its cheese and the big cheese was eagerly awaited.

The creation of the big cheese was a promotional stunt, simply, and it was a brave one considering the times. Created at three different cheese factories, this cheese was the pride of Ingersoll. The creators of this project were Mr. Harris, Mr. Ranney and Mr. Galloway, all leading cheese producers in the area.
In 1866, this massive cheese represented everything great about Ingersoll, and subsequently, Oxford County. This area was a leader in cheese production at that time and this message was going to be broadcast to all who would listen. After all, who doesn’t love cheese?

The facts surrounding this cheese production are impressive: 2400 cows contributed milk towards the big cheese, creating the curd took 48 hours and because of the size of this production, it had to be completed at three different cheese factories. The hoop for this cheese was a large one, as well – 7 feet. The Harris Cheese Factory actually had to build a structure beside their factory that would house this massive cheese; this allowed the workers to turn the cheese daily.

Once the massive cheese was created, the cheese took a colorful journey through the streets of Ingersoll to the railway station. All came out to see the departure of this famous cheese. At the railway station, the cheese was then transported to New York where it took part in the World’s Fair. After, the cheese set sail for England, where it was paraded in a similar fashion. Its adventures stopped there, though, and the cheese was sold to a cheese merchant in England.

With that said, Bright Cheese and Butter is celebrating 140 years of making cheese just like the pioneers did. Stop by their original factory & shop in Bright to taste cheese made with whole local milk. Their cheddars are unpasteurized. James Harris and his colleagues would have definitely approved. Travel the Oxford County Cheese Trail visiting artisanal cheese makers, cheese shops and museums celebrating Oxford’s dairy history. Learn about the vibrant cheese history of Oxford County.

Pamela Stadden

An Oxford County resident, historian, and author of the novel Reggie. Part biography part fiction telling the story of Reginal Birchall and the infamous murder trial of 1890.

Big Cheese Portrait

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Love and Marriage during Oxford at War 1814

In times of war, romance still finds a way to bloom. Regency author Jane Austen lived that personally and professionally, supplying a regiment’s worth of dashing and dastardly military characters to her heroines’ coming of age tales.

Born in 1775 in England, Jane was a keen and concerned follower of war news. During the momentous year of 1812, when America declared war on Britain and therefore Canada, Jane prepared and sold Pride & Prejudice for publication while worrying about the safety of her brothers Francis and Charles, serving in the British Royal Navy. (Francis eventually became the Commander in Chief of The North American and West Indian fleet, giving him experience of Americans. He believed the women flippant and lacking his sister Jane’s culture).

Here in Oxford County, the fledgling settlement of Oxford on the Thames was also nervous. Every male aged 16 to 60 was obliged by the King to defend home and country. The men kissed their sweethearts, wives and families goodbye and marched off to fight with General Isaac Brock and Chief Tecumseh. When Brock was mortally shot at Queenston Heights on Oct. 13, 1812, also battling on the bloody hill were Oxford’s William Dodge and Warner Dygert. They were really just boys yet their courage and determination to fight outsized their physical stature. Perhaps teenaged girls waited back home for the young heroes’ return?

For even though fear of American invaders and unbearable war news caused Oxford hearts to pound, love still set pulses fluttering and poured strength into soulmates facing the unthinkable together.

Seeing to settlers’ spiritual wellbeing were several religious leaders, including Episcopal Methodist preacher Enoch Burdick. The saddlebag preacher rode horseback from his family home in Oxford to Ancaster, Long Point and other settlements to deliver rousing sermons, perform the sacraments and unite couples in holy matrimony.

A vigorous, devout man, Enoch was a lieutenant in the Oxford Militia and lived near to the Burdick Mill, a 16-foot square structure built by James Burdick sometime between 1805 and 1807 on Centreville Creek at the first Concession.

On August 28, 1814, enemy Andrew Westbrook and the Michigan Rangers paid their second visit to Oxford, once again intent on destruction. Earlier, their April 5 raid had left the settlement ablaze as log homes, farms and the Methodist Church were consumed by fire.

This time, the invaders chose to burn down the Burdick Mill. The Americans’ intent was to starve out the British and Canadians by torching their crops, stealing their livestock and wiping out the mills.

The Rangers approached Enoch’s home. Instead of a peaceful welcome, they were greeted by the blast of Enoch’s musket. The preacher’s aim struck one American before the Rangers returned fire, wounded Enoch and then looted his cabin.

The War of 1812 dragged on till a peace treaty was signed on Christmas Eve, 1814. The news did not reach the British navy in time to prevent them from attacking New Orleans on Jan. 8, 1815. Future U.S. president Andrew Jackson’s army defeated them, bringing the long, hard war to a close. The battle-weary men on both sides of the border were finally able to reunite with their loved ones and begin to build their lives anew.

Oxford at War 1814 is a free family event commemorating the bravery and sacrifice of this County’s earliest settlers. In Centreville on Aug. 16 and 17, actors and re-enactors will connect visitors to the year that Oxford was torched three times, ever determined to rise from the ashes.

Preacher Enoch Burdick will be portrayed by United Church of Canada minister Jim Evans. He will happily renew the vows of any couple who wishes to reaffirm their commitment to one another during Oxford at War 1814.

For the complete event schedule, please visit As part of the commemorative weekend, War of 1812 activities are also occurring at the Ingersoll Cheese & Agricultural Museum and the Beachville District Museum.


Written by Karen Paton-Evans

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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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