By Emily Stonehouse
You know what they say; good things come in small packages.
That could not be more true for the Stanhope Heritage Museum. Nestled in the heart of Algonquin Highlands, the tiny space boasts over 140 years of records and artifacts from the region.
The building formerly housed the original Stanhope Council meetings. On January 15, 1866 the first council meeting of Stanhope Township was held in what is now Minden. At that time, the meetings were held in people’s private homes.
By 1910, a resolution was passed to build a formal council hall. The building was erected on Dominion Road in Stanhope, and “was known to host the odd square dance where folks say the loggers – and their boots, made quite an impression!” reads a plaque outside the museum.
By 1966, the one-room council chamber opted for more room in the Lower Maple Lake Schoolhouse, which resulted in the hall being left abandoned. In 1995, Stanhope Council asked community volunteers to create a local museum, and the small building was relocated to where it now sits today, near the Algonquin Highlands Township buildings.
One volunteer who has poured his heart and soul into that one room building is Bill Forbes, who has spent the past 25 years learning about the history, geography, and stories of the Stanhope region. “I’ve only been in the area since 1946,” laughed Forbes, “I’m still a newbie!”
Forbes has a vast understanding of the artifacts that line the walls of the museum, and provides individual anecdotes and personal stories along with each piece.
Currently, the displays in the museum include a full history of the 50 years of the Stanhope Fire Department, a detailed miniature one-room schoolhouse, an in-depth history of logging in the area, a series of charcoal portraits of locals over the years, a series of standalone facts and figures that highlight the heritage, and an information corner where folks can research their family trees and local properties.
One particular area of interest is the different uses of the words “Boshkung” and “Boskung”.
“Boshkung has been spelled differently on maps over the years, including Bushk-Konk, Bushconk, and Buskank,” reads the plaque on the museum. “Where did Boshkung come from?”
According to the history, there were five applications made to request a post office in the area. The 1878 application was the first to suggest “Bushkonk”, after the lake itself, but when the community received the paperwork back for the post office, the letters were transposed, and spelled out “Boskung.”
Many locals still refer to the area as Boskung, though it was noted that it has gradually evolved to become Boshkung over the years.
The museum is filled with anecdotes just like this, that make the place so many call home that much richer and more colourful.
For Forbes, it’s not just the stories that paint the picture of the area. “Being here, over time, the thing that’s so wonderful, is just all the people who come in.”
While the museum is open Wednesday to Saturday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., Forbes made it clear that he is open to welcoming guests and groups outside of those hours if arrangements are made in advance. He shared that he has hosted car clubs, bike tours, and family reunions onsite, and is eager to meet more people, and welcome new visitors onto the site. “There’s lots I can tell people,” Forbes said, “but there’s so much more they can tell me.”
The museum is located at 1123 North Shore Road in Algonquin Highlands, and can be reached at 705-489-2379.