By Sue Tiffin
A “rabbit hole” is a phrase used online to describe an extremely engrossing and time-consuming topic, and it is a phrase I use often with Adele Espina. Whether she’s delighting me with the topics she pursues for her much-loved column [See Page 13] in this paper, answering questions as my go-to for background information that I can’t find online like she can, or – upon hearing me share stories of my family’s history – digging deeper and showing me documents I’ve never seen, Adele is – as many of you know – a local treasure. She easily entices me to fall down rabbit holes in pursuit of fascinating facts and bits and pieces of historical trivia that help me to better understand how or why something happened, or simply just be completely entertained by the hot gossip of days gone by.
Adele is one of many people in this community who care very much about local history, and work diligently – often as volunteers – to uncover answers, make connections and share what they can find so that others can know more.
Last week, I was able to tune in to the Halls and Hawk Lakes Property Owners Association Cottage Chat discussion, where Adele spoke to the resources available to learn more about the history of Algonquin Highlands.
The work done on the Algonquin Highlands Heritage Map Project by volunteers, in the Oxtongue Lake area, the Dorset Museum and the Stanhope Museum, and the Settlers of Algonquin Highlands family tree project created by seniors in the Oxtongue Lake area, Dorset village area and Stanhope township is truly remarkable – and though it is and might always be a work in progress, the information available there now is a goldmine for anyone looking for personal history, information about the area, or following a research trail that has led from somewhere else. (Imagine looking for an ancestor’s gravestone from no matter where you are and finding a recent photo of it at the click of a mouse). That it’s available online, free of charge, and with quick responses from those who have gathered this information in one place makes it priceless.
Take some time, no matter where you live, to visit the Algonquin Highlands Heritage Map project at heritagemapsalgonquin.com, for information on historical sites, local stories, settlers, veterans and a new feature on local lakes and their history. The Settlers of Algonquin Highlands family tree project at algonquinhighlands.ca/genealogy is a genealogical compilation of the area’s earliest settlers and their descendants, complete with images, newspaper clippings and gravestone images, of settlers, and their descendants as well.
Both sites were made possible with a New Horizons for Seniors grant awarded to the township of Algonquin Highlands. Additionally, the Stanhope Museum Facebook page features the handwritten Wilfred Mason daily farm diaries, and is easy to follow through the work of Pam Hewitt-Osborne, a Stanhope Museum committee member, who has been transcribing the diaries for more than three years.
It’s commendable that the township has cared so much about preserving this history, and is moving forward to record more, including Indigenous history in the area. A thank you to the passionate volunteers – including the indefatigable Norma Goodger – who are working to record history for us now and others to come in the future.
Pour a coffee, clear your schedule of a few hours, and join others down the rabbit hole by visiting those sites to learn more.