This “rock” has been sitting in the basement of the family house for close decades. My grandmother Hazel Dawson found it back in the 1960s on a trip to the Alberta Badlands. This fall I sent a series of photos of the “rock” to Carl Mehling of the Fossil Amphibian, Reptile, and Bird Collections, Division of Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History.
Mr. Mehling was kind enough to take a look and immediately confirmed that this was a dinosaur bone fragment. Unfortunately there is not enough of the specimen to identify the bone or the dinosaur type from which it came from suffice to say that the hadrosaurs (duck-billed dinosaurs) and ceratopsians (horned dinosaurs) were the most common species in that part of the world. Mr. Mehling stated “Your piece is most likely from within the Late Cretaceous and should be about 75-78 million years old.” Incredible and I thought it had been laying in the basement a long time.
Yesterday my friend Ray and I went out to Walter’s Falls another place in the Grey Bruce area that I have never visited. It’s out past Bognor in an isolated part of the county about midway between Chatsworth and Meaford. What we found there was a 14 metre high waterfall (as was to be expected at a place named ‘falls’), the shell of an old woolen mill, the scattered, rusting parts of an old saw mill, a forklift that got mired in the muck one day and was left abandoned ever since, an inn & spa, the Bruce Trail and some very imaginative wood carvings.
The story of Walter’s Falls begins in 1852 when John Walter of Toronto claimed 300 acres of land on the south branch of the Bighead River. A saw mill was built in 1853 and the town grew up around this. By 1865 the town had a grist mill, a woolen mill, a post office, a tavern, a blacksmith, a wagon maker, two carpenters, a millwright and a tinsmith. 1 The village had a population of about 200 people in 1887.The sawmill remained until it burned down on October 15, 1984.
Hubbert, Mildred (1983). The Paths that Led to Holland, Vol 1. Canada: The Historical Society of Holland Township. p. 1 ↩
He lost his family to Belgian colonial enforcers, was put on exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair and lived in the Bronx Zoo. This is the story of Ota Benga a Mbuti (Bambuti) Pygmy born in the Congo in the 1880s and died by his own hand at the age of 32 in the United States of America.
At the turn of the 19th century it was a white man’s world. 1 It was the age of empire and the pinnacle of colonial expansion. Queen Victoria sat on her throne and ruled over an Empire so vast it was commonly referred to as “the empire on which the sun never sets.” 2” Pax Britannica straddled the globe reaching from Canada to Hong Kong, from India to Ireland, from Egypt to Australia, from South Africa to Jamaica. Britain was not alone in the colonial exercise as the French, Dutch, Belgians and Germans, along with the fledgling United States of America competed in dominating overseas properties.
The lands, resources and people of the world were seen to be the white man’s to be surveyed, managed and exploited, but it was also considered “the white man’s burden” to bring the perceived benefits of the light of Christianity, scientific knowledge and civilization to what were regarded as the ignorant and savage, primitive classes of humanity. 3
In 1884 a leading exponent of colonialism, Jules Ferry stated : “The higher races have a right over the lower races, they have a duty to civilize the inferior”. 4 In that time this was considered a perfectly rational and acceptable statement to make regarding the relationship between the white Euro-centric world and those who were not white. Evolutionary science of the time supported the notion that white people were at the top of a biological hierarchy and anthropology, the study of humanity, grew out of the requirements of colonial expansionism to observe, record and manage the ‘exotic’ people the colonials encountered 5
Ota Benga lived in what was then the Belgian Congo. His wife and children were slaughtered by Force Publique enforcers while he was out hunting. Congolese villages were required to meet rubber and ivory quotas or face extermination. Over decades an estimated 10,000,000 Congolese were slaughtered in the pursuit of rubber. 6
Ota Benga was himself captured by slavers and in 1904 was traded for “a pound of salt and a bolt of cloth” 7 to Samuel Phillips Verner who was assembling individuals for an exhibit to be displayed at the St Louis Worlds Fair. The intent was to illustrate contemporary notions of cultural evolution “representatives of all the world’s peoples, ranging from smallest pygmies to the most gigantic peoples, from the darkest blacks to the dominant whites” to show what was commonly thought then to be a sort of cultural evolution8
Ota (along with his fairground neighbour Apache leader Geronimo) proved to be a popular attraction at the World’s Fair. His sharp filed teeth and tiny stature made him a national representative of the ” savage African cannibal” to the throngs who saw him at the fair. When the fair ended he returned for a time to Africa but found he no longer fit in and he returned to the States.
For a time he lived at the American Museum of Natural History where he functioned as a living exhibit acting as a “primitive” in front of a “civilized” audience. In 1906 he was taken to live at the Bronx Zoo where he was encouraged to befriend apes and monkeys. A sign was made for him:
The African Pigmy, “Ota Benga.”
Age, 23 years. Height, 4 feet 11 inches.
Weight, 103 pounds. Brought from the
Kasai River, Congo Free State, South Cen-
tral Africa, by Dr. Samuel P. Verner. Ex-
hibited each afternoon during September. 9
Initially Ota roamed freely but was eventually made to display himself along with the apes. not everyone found this acceptable and public pressure eventually drove the Bronx Zoo to turn Ota Benga loose. This was not an easy transition for Benga. For a time he was placed in an orphanage and later with the McCray family of Lynchburg Virginia. At this time his sharpened teeth were capped as attempts were made to assimilate him into society. He went to school and worked in a tobacco plant. never feeling at home Ota wanted to return to Africa but in 1914 World War I broke out ending the likelihood of travel. “On March 20, 1916, at the age of 32, he built a ceremonial fire, chipped off the caps on his teeth, and shot himself in the heart with a stolen pistol.” 10
Occasionally there are things in your backyard waiting for you to discover if you would only turn around, take a step forward and look. Yesterday I turned around.
Wiarton (the home of Wiarton Willie the prognosticating albino rodent) is 35 minutes from where I live and is the gateway to the Tobermorey peninsula, that long finger of land that seems to point to the outer limits of the world as you drive north. Just beyond this small city on Georgian Bay is the Spirit Rock which conveniently is located in the Spirit Rock Conservation Area. Along with this scenic outpost are found the ruins of a manor known as The Corran. This appropriately is said to be Gaelic for ‘land running into the sea’ as well as the name of the Irish county the owner Alexander McNeill came from. Yesterday my friend Ray and I drove up to explore
Construction on the home began in 1882 by Hester McNeill and her husband Canadian Member of Parliament Alexander McNeill. The 17 room manor was filled with luxury and opulence, oriental carpets, bearskin rugs, a marble bath and an extensive library. All of this was surrounded by 3 acres of gardens including 500 rose bushes among which were the black roses of McNeill’s home Ireland. There was also a stable for the horses, a barn for the Durham Shorthorns that McNeill bred, an ice house, a power generator and two cottages for the McNeill’s dear friend and estate manager Alfred Lewis, who had come with his wife and daughters from England to help McNeill after Hester passed on in 1890, the manor still not complete. Lewis himself died in 1931 the victim of the first auto accident in the region. Alexander McNeill passed on himself the following year a month short of 90.
The McNeill’s only had one child, Malcolm and Malcolm never married or had children. He lived in the home with the housekeeper Sally Simmons and when Malcolm passed on in 1952 the home went to her. Malcolm had left debts and Simmons could not afford the upkeep of the home and property. She sold it in 1960 to a man from Willowdale Ontario. Soon after the home was vacated forever. Over the next 16 years it endured youthful vandalism ending it’s days in fire. The property now belongs to Grey Sauble Conservation. The gardens and orchards are gone now overgrown with trees and weeds. All that remains are some of the two story stone walls and the steps to the front entrance where the porch once was.