B&B guest shares cherished memorabilia

 In Community

A few weeks ago, I submitted a family photograph of the Corbett family for “The Way We Were” section. This article appears in today’s issue in order to answer two important questions that, I believe, have possibly caused one or two readers of the Creemore Echo to be sleep deprived since the publication of the Corbett photograph.

Specifically, I will endeavour to explain “who were the Corbetts” and “why did I feel that it was important to submit their family photograph to the newspaper”.

I will begin by giving some background details on how this very rare family photograph came into my possession.

The story of the Corbett family photograph begins several years ago. Miss Helen Rutledge and her niece Julia, while attending a funeral in Creemore, stayed in our home as a guest at Blacksmith House B&B. Helen, a lady in her eighties, told us that she was a cousin of one of the early owners of our residence. She further explained that as a young girl she regularly visited our home in the early 1900’s. During her brief stay, we all enjoyed sitting around our kitchen table sharing our knowledge about life in Creemore. At one point in the conversation, I suggested that Helen probably felt that she was being interrogated by Jean and I, similar to some spy novel in order to reveal her childhood memories. We all had a good laugh about that suggestion.

The next morning while having breakfast, Helen mentioned that she would soon be moving to a retirement home, and wondered if we would like several boxes of pictures and other documents relating to the early history of Creemore. We were thrilled that she would allow us to preserve these unique historical items.

A few weeks after their visit, Julia returned with her car full of boxes as well as several framed diplomas. The documents donated to us were a treasure trove of various family photographs from Helen’s childhood, including a very rare photograph of the Blacksmith shop (circa 1908) , and the University degree of Helen’s father, William H. Rutledge, who became a pharmacist and worked at Corbett’s drug store starting in the late 1890’s. In fact, while recently reviewing the 1891 Simcoe County census, I noticed that William Rutledge (age 20) is a lodger with the Corbett family and his occupation is shown as “drug apprentice”. This census information confirms the close personal relationship between the Corbett family and Helen’s father.

This incredible collection of one of a kind memorabilia also contained the framed copies of the University degrees of W. J. Corbett, the gentleman who established the first pharmacy in Creemore in 1878, and his son Herbert Milton Corbett who became a pharmacist in 1911. In one of the other boxes, I discovered a photograph of W.J. Corbett (a copy of this photograph can be found on the Purple Hills Arts & Heritage Society historical plaque currently installed on the south exterior wall of the pharmacy building) as well as the Corbett family photograph that appeared in a previous issue of the Creemore Echo.

The Corbett family photograph was probably taken in 1890-91. The back row of the photograph shows William John Corbett (age 46), with his occupation being a “chemist & druggist”, and his wife Mary Ann (Ludlow) Corbett (age 35). In the front row, the photograph shows their son Herbert Milton Corbett (age 3) and daughter Sarah E. Lillian Corbett (less than one year old). Initially, I thought that this photograph had been taken at their residence at 241 Mill Street (currently owned by Cheryl & Dave Rogalsky). However, after speaking to Dave Rogalsky, he stated that their Land Registry property title search indicated that William J. Corbett purchased the property from Alex Earle in 1902.

On a recent visit to the Creemore Union Cemetery, I found the following information inscribed on the Corbett family memorial. William John Corbett (1844-1920), Mary Ann (Ludlow) Corbett (1855-1951), Infant Corbett (daughter) (1884-1884), Herbert Milton Corbett (1887-1971), Sarah E. Lillian Corbett (1890-1894), Mary H. M. Corbett (1892-1976). The Corbett memorial sadly reveals that prior to this family photograph; they had lost an infant daughter. Tragedy would again strike another young member of the Corbett family when Sarah Corbett dies in 1894. A few days ago, I read a letter written by W. J. Corbett in 1896 and published in the Freeman’s Journal of Sydney, New South Wales which I discovered at the National Library of Australia. It reads as follows: Mr. W.J. Corbett, Creemore, writes: “I supplied Canadian Healing Oil to a large number of parents during an epidemic of Diphtheria, and every one that I know saved their children, while a number that I know lost theirs after using other remedies. Canadian Healing Oil is in constant demand all the year round.” It is pure speculation on my part. However, I wonder if diphtheria perhaps was responsible for the death of Sarah Corbett. Was her death in 1894 a possible reason that W.J. was promoting the Canadian Healing Oil in order to save other parents from a similar loss of a child that he and his wife had suffered?

In a future article on the Corbett family, I will attempt to explain (in 5,000 or did Echo Editor Trina Berlo say, 500 words or less?) how a wheelbarrow in 1878 played a very significant role in the establishment of Creemore’s first pharmacy.




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