Doubtful July 1, 1867 was much cause for celebration
In 1867, the year our Canadian nation was formed, my great grandparents, George and Esther (Gowan) Webster lived beside the river at the south end of Mill Street in Creemore. Esther was a short, plump redhead and her husband was thin and wiry, a result of his days spent at carpentry and running the mills. The young couple had three little boys, and a fourth son to be born the next spring, my grandfather. I guess he could be called a Confederation baby.
Creemore had its beginnings about 20 years previous to 1867. It was a result of George’s big brother’s energy and vision. Big brother’s name was Edward, an ambitious man. But in 1862 he and his family left Creemore in disgrace. He had borrowed too much money to make his dreams a reality and had to declare bankruptcy.
Although Edward Webster was gone, Creemore continued to be a bustling and growing village. Granted, the place was small. Most buildings were clustered beside the river on both sides at the end of the main street. On the south side, where everything began, were mills, a blacksmith, a house and barn and some small factories such as the one that made beds and chairs. With the south hill presenting a barrier, growth naturally developed northward.
The future of Creemore looked good. Farms in the area were being settled and the people had needs not met on their plot of land. Farmers who wanted to sell their produce had to haul it to Stayner where it could be shipped from the new train station. A train through Creemore was still a dream. But most needs were met in the village. Bolster’s new store at the north-east corner of Mill and Edward Streets was large and accommodating. It also contained the post office. A fine school was built just up the hill on the Fourth Line to the south. The Anglican church was in the same locality beside the cemetery. A longer walk on Sunday morning was required for the Presbyterians. Their church was way up the south hill in the locality called Purple Hill. Three persuasions of Methodists had small frame buildings to the north of the busy centre. The Baptists had travelling missionaries that visited from time to time.
To get from one place to another bridges were essential. At the time they were wooden and built low to the water.
Spring floods often washed them away so that new ones were required each year. Roads were narrow dirt trails. The main part of Creemore that we know today was a cedar swamp, so travel could be difficult.
It is doubtful if much of a celebration was planned for July 1, 1867. The Fathers of Confederation were so far away. Newspapers did come by the infrequent mail but who would have time to read the during the long summer days?
The main cause for celebration in that era was the 12th of July. All efforts were focused on that date. The Glorious Twelfth celebrated the Battle of the Boyne in Ireland and was very important for the members of the Loyal Orange Lodge. It was the one event that prompted hard working farmers to leave their haying. Vehicles could be seen from the earliest morning hours making their way to the village. The buggies and wagons held the whole family dressed in their best and packed among them was a hefty picnic lunch. The village was alive with fluttering flags and banners and various drum and fife bands could be heard practising their best pieces.
But likely July 1st was just another working day.
Today, up on the cemetery hill George and Esther lie at rest in a grave that overlooks all of Creemore. The little village they knew has grown and flourished. They would hardly recognize it.