Were a kind fairy to suggest that I might have one wish granted, it would be that I would like to see every child given an opportunity to have flowers, birds and animals, a place to play, a garden in which to work, and something all his own to love."-J.A. Taylor 
A Brief History of School Gardening
Newton Wiley's 1912 Globe article highlighted the successes of school gardening, stating that "in Ontario during the last four or five years a remarkable development along educational lines has taken place that has been little heard of outside of the centres affected. It has consisted in a broadening of the public school curriculum to a wider utilization of the greatest education-Nature."
At the turn of the twentieth century there were several programs that focused on teaching children gardening. In 1904 Nature Study was established as a course at the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), with the purpose of improving the aesthetic side of rural life in Ontario. Through this program, rural boys and girls were prepared for farm life, where they believed this was "nature's own method of training her children." That same year, Montreal philanthropist Sir William MacDonald initiated and funded a school gardening programme. Under the directorship of James W. Robertson, Dominion Commissioner of Agriculture and Dairying, the program commenced. Twenty five schools - five for each province - were selected in Ontario, New Brunswick, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. The program allowed for selected teachers to be sent to one year nature study programs, funded by MacDonald, in places like the University of Chicago, Cornell, the Ontario Agricultural College, and Columbia University. To support future teacher training MacDonald donated $175,000 to Ontario to build what is now known as the MacDonald Institute at the Ontario Agricultural College.
MacDonald School Gardening and Nature Study were very popular and successful initiatives that brought students and their teachers closer to nature through practical application. Sadly, these programs came to a close with the beginning of the First World War, but there was a silver lining. Ontario Horticultural Societies took up the torch where these programs left off. Individual societies throughout the country encouraged children to garden. A ten year old girl who tended a school garden in the Windsor area stated:
I grew in [my garden] vegetables, such as radishes, beets, carrots, onions, beans, tomatoes and turnips; all of which grew very nicely. Some of my vegetables I canned after having been shown the way to do them and took them to the Windsor Fair, and got a first prize for $3 for 1917.
Another little boy participated in a horticultural society gardening contest and his proud teacher stated that:
At the end of the season he got a prize, 75 cents. They sent it to him in the form of a cheque, which the parents had framed, the father saying if they cashed it for him the money would be gone, but they could show the framed cheque to their friends.
School gardens were an important part of children's education at the turn of the century. Teaching children to garden instilled many important values. The next section will discuss some of these skills and values, showing how people thought about gardening at the turn of the century.
What was the Value of School Gardens?
As discussed above, school gardens meant more than just learning to garden, and students reaped more than just plant knowledge. In 1903, Professor W. Lochhead of OAC wrote an article for the Canadian Horticulturalist magazine where he answered, "what is the value of school gardening?" He believed that it:
(a) Inculcates habits of order, care, neatness and method and forces the child to constant observation.
(b) Brings the mind into closer communication with nature
(c) Teachers and scholars are brought closer in touch
(d) Physical recreation of a helpful pleasurable nature is provided
(e) Provides a hobby that may keep many from less desirable occupations during their leisure time
(f) A greater interest is taken in garden work in the community
(g) Indirectly, a love for home and its environments is created
(h) Gives boys and girls the rudiments of an industrial training which may be of value later in life.
This insightful list shows that there was far more positive skills learned by students than just producing vegetables. Below we will explore these, and other virtues that school gardening taught children in detail.
Citizenship and Nation-Building
School gardening made good citizens. It was thought that, "through the work of the school garden the pupil of either the country or city school is made a better student and a more useful citizen. "Thus, school gardening was used as a nation-building tool. The act of gardening connected students with the land around them, making them prideful of where they lived. Professor Lochhead illustrated this idea when he stated, "there is no more civilizing influence anywhere than that of the school gardens, and history tells us that one of the greatest advances in the history of the race occurred when men began the cultivation of plants, he then became a home builder, and gave up his wondering, nomadic habits."
Gardening also taught children many different skills. One such skill was discussed during the First World War when food production became a patriotic way of helping Canadian and Allied troops. J.A. Taylor expressed that, "school gardens also contribute to national prosperity. We know that the cost of vegetables [is] exceedingly high. It is nothing but right that the children should be taught to play their part in national prosperity." Gardening, then, taught children about economics and enlisted them to help in the war effort.
Character Development Through Moral Education
School gardening also made good children. George D. Fuller, Director of the school in Brone Country, Quebec, said that gardening had a very positive effect on students because their attention "turned to a consideration of the beautiful to the exclusion of many baser thoughts." Essentially, students spent more time on the virtuous activity of gardening than on activities that might get them in trouble. Thus, it was determined that school gardening in cities usually meant a decrease in crime. In St. Thomas, for example, it was reported that there were fewer juvenile court cases after school gardening was put into the curriculum, because children were busy tending gardens. In addition, active horticultural society member Mrs. R.B. Potts believed that school gardening instilled empathy in Canadian youth. She believed that, "people of all nations are recognizing as a truth that knowledge is for man a means to an end; true education is based on sympathy for fellow man and a widespread appreciation of nature, best gained through observation and continued self activity."
School gardening also made better students. Garden historian Edwinna Von Baeyer stated that "absenteeism, always the bane of the rural school, decreased as the students rushed to school to see if their beans were up yet." Not only did students spend more time in school, but the ones who gardened typically received better grades than those who did not. J.A. Taylor believed this to be the case because, "school garden help[ed] to furnish an environment in which their characters are to develop and grow. Environment forms a large amount of life's course of study, and its enrichment makes noble tastes, refined ideas, elevated thoughts and lofty ideals, and sweetness of soul."
A Progressive Idea?
Students learned about the environment around them by going outside and gardening. They made mistakes, suffered disappointment, felt pride, and had their curiosity for the outside world satiated. John G. McDonald of the Aurora Horticultural Society explained that, "it is a recognized principle that we learn by doing. So in school gardening nothing will awaken an interest in this subject so much as getting to work at it." This practical application of education is an early example of the progressive educational model. The progressive educational movement began in Canada after the First World War. At this time people re-examined the values of existing, traditional values against innovative ideas. This movement promoted active and personal learning opportunities for pupils by encouraging them to learn through more hands-on experiences. This type of education emphasized life-long learning that taught students to be socially responsible, democratic citizens. Gardening was a way for children to get outside and "learn by doing." Engaging in gardening made them lifelong students who became good Canadian citizens.
School Gardening Today
School gardens are still in use today, although the way we think about these gardens has changed. Earlier gardens took on the Victorian ideals of crafting moral and just children. Today, school gardening focuses on teaching children more about conservation and respect for the environment. Marjorie Harris, garden columnist for the Globe and Mail, stated that "the sooner you teach a child the joys of the garden, the more likely you'll have an adult who respects the environment." Engaging in school gardening also helps children stay active. In 1996, Nancy Lee-Collibaba of Royal Botanical Gardens called out to parents, "are you looking for some interesting activities that will keep the kids away from computer games or TV, or provide skills to enrich their minds? Introduce your children to gardening!"
Gardening is not in the school curriculum, and programs depend on individual teachers' interest in the subject. In 2000, Ossington-Old Orchard Public School's garden, which had fifty students tending it, was threatened with removal when the school could no longer fund the instructor. Grade five student Alex Dault-Laurence was dismayed at the news, stating (perhaps with help from his parents) that, "if the garden disappears, part of the school's identity disappears too."There is a successful school garden at Humewood Community School in Toronto, where students are encouraged to design their own garden plots. The project's coordinator, Alex Lawson, said that "when I saw the students' designs--their wide range of plant choices, their lively sense of colour--I was impressed." In British Columbia there is a popular program called Farm-to-School, which matches participating schools with farmers in order to help teach students more about where their food comes from.
There are also many programs outside of schools which provide children with garden education. Royal Botanical Gardens has had children garden plots since 1947. The idea of the plots was initiated by Barbara Laking, the wife of then Director Leslie after her visit to the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, which had a child gardening program in place. When explaining the value of the gardens, Brian Holley of RBG stated that one of the objectives of the plots was "to provide the children with knowledge. The educational opportunities that a garden makes available are almost unlimited. In addition to gardening techniques, students are instructed in botany, cooking, flower arranging, crafts, and natural history."RBG's child gardening plots are still very popular, and more information about their program can be found here.
Many horticultural societies continue to support junior gardening throughout the country. There are also other initiatives to get children gardening, like the Junior Master Gardener, Lucy Maud Montgomery Children's Garden of the Senses, Children's Eco Programs, Spec School Gardening Program, Evergreen's Weekend Nature Play in the Children's Garden, High Park's Children's Garden, and so many more!
J.A. Taylor, "The Influence of School Gardens on Community," 12th Annual Report of the Horticultural Society for 1917 (Toronto: Department of Agriculture, 1918), 50.
[e] Newton Wiley, "School Gardening in Ontario," The Globe, June 15, 1912.
Alexander M. Ross, A College on the Hill: A History of the Ontario Agricultural College, 1874-1974 (Toronto: Copp Clark Publishing, 1974), 73.
 Edwinna von Baeyer, Rhetoric and Roses: A History of Canadian Gardening 1900-1930 (Markham, Ontario: Fitzhenry and Whiteside Ltd., 1984), 40.
J.A. Taylor, "The Influence of School Gardens on Community," 49.
W. Lochhead, "School Gardens," The Canadian Horticulturist, July 1903, 273.
Newton Wiley, "School Gardening in Ontario," The Globe, June 15, 1912.
W. Lochhead, "School Gardens," The Canadian Horticulturist, July 1903, 246.
J.A. Taylor, "The Influence of School Gardens on Community," 31.
Edwinna von Baeyer, Rhetoric and Roses: A History of Canadian Gardening 1900-1930, 42
J.A. Taylor, "The Influence of School Gardens on Community," 29.
R.B. Potts, "School Children and Horticulture," 8th Annual Report of the Horticultural Societies for the Year 1913 (Toronto: Department of Agriculture, 1914), 54.
Edwinna von Baeyer, Rhetoric and Roses: A History of Canadian Gardening 1900-1930, 42
J.A. Taylor, "The Influence of School Gardens on Community," 48.
John G. McDonald, "School Gardens," 14th Annual Report of the Horticultural Societies for 1919, 89.
John Elias and Sharan B. Merriam. Philosophical Foundations of Adult Education (Krieger Publishing Company, 1995)
Marjorie Harris, "Students Watch how their Garden Grows," The Globe and Mail, May 16, 1992
Nancy Lee-Colibaba, "Gardening with Children: Cultivating Enriched Children," Pappus, Summer 1996, 24-25.
Theresa Ebden, "Please Save our Garden, Student Pleads," The Globe and Mail , May 11, 2000
Marjorie Harris, "Students Watch how their Garden Grows," The Globe and Mail, May 16, 1992
Jessica Leeder, Farm-to-School programs boosts the health of B.C. students and the food economy, The Globe and Mail, October 11, 2011
Brian Holley, "Gardening with Children-Sowing Seeds for the Future," Pappus, Summer 1985, 9-10.
At the turn of the twentieth century, numerous Canadians were concerned with civic beautification. A beautification movement erupted out of a reforming zeal initiated by prohibitionists, suffragettes and evangelists. Gardening became a quest for "good citizenship, improvement, social remedy, morality, material progress."  Horticultural duty, gardeners believed, would "purify home life...promote a greater love of home...and thereby lay the foundation of a patriotism worthy of the land we possess."  Soon after, that patriotism was tested when the First World War erupted. Citizens all throughout Canada began growing crops for wartime food production; horticultural Societies urged their members to plant backyard gardens. John Webber, head of the Hamilton Horticultural Society, spoke of the desirability of using all backyard space to grow vegetables, something he viewed as a patriotic duty.  Vacant Lot Associations were organized with the mission of getting the unemployed, as well as returned soldiers, to garden on vacant plots of land. Many of these gardens produced vegetables for the war effort. In 1917, Toronto had 798 vacant lots in cultivation, with produce valued at $40,000 (over $650,000 in 2017). 
The war resulted in an exodus of male farmers and factory workers leaving for the front. Most older women filled in for them by working in munition plants. This exodus also left space for young women to spend their summers working on farms to aid the war effort. Known as Farmerettes, these women planted, tended and harvested crops. At first, they were met with skepticism; many were deemed "city girls" who would not provide much help. This assumption proved wrong, as numerous county and city girls alike rose to the task, providing an immeasurable contribution to wartime food production. In Niagara, the Young Women's Christian Association brought women enrolled in universities and women's colleges to harvest fruit. They came from Montreal, Quebec City, and other Ontario communities. With the women's help, fruit was harvested with minimal loss. 
There were a plethora of initiatives that showed the desire of everyday citizens to pull together to aid the war effort. For some, it was as simple as planting crops in a backyard garden; for others, it meant dedicating more substantial amounts of time to farm labour. However big or small the contribution, Canadians worked hard to feed both Canadian and allied soldiers.
Thank you to Julie Bushey, Collection Management Assistant of the Grimsby Museum for selecting, scanning and sending the above images.
 Edwinna von Baeyer. Rhetoric and Roses: a History of Canadian Gardening (Markham: Fitzhenry & Whiteside, 1984), 3.
 Canadian Horticulturist, May 1904, 190.
Hamilton Horticultural Society Centennial Year Book and Garden Guide, 1850-1950, 12.
 Philip F. Dodds and H.E. Markle, The Story of Ontario Horticultural Societies, 1854-1973 (Picton: Picton Gazette Publishing Company, 1973), 58.
 St. Catharines Museum. Niagara's Farmerettes. St. Catharines' Blog https://stcatharinesmuseumblog.com/2016/10/18/niagaras-farmerettes/ (accessed September 10, 2017)
Community Memories. Grown in the Garden of Canada: The History of the Fruit Industry in Grimsby, Ontario, http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=exhibit_home&fl=0&lg=English&ex=00000438 (accessed September 10, 2017)
Like during the First World War, many Canadians worked to produce food for the war effort during the Second World War. There were several food production initiatives throughout the war years; this post focuses on the students engaged in Farm Service. Male and female students worked on farms in the summer as a means of gaining course credit while also assisting with food production. Not only did this program help provide food for soldiers fighting overseas, it also instilled democratic values in Canadian youth. The 1941 Labour Gazette stated that:
Some teachers have questioned the advisability of allowing students to leave school so early in the year because of the loss in education. On the other hand this plan may be a gain for education if there is taken into consideration the value of training in Democracy involved in the self-discipline of farm work, the understanding of urban-rural relationships secured, the responsibility of the individual to the community which is developed in rendering a fair day's work for a fair day's pay, the co-ordination of body, mind and spirit in serving the social purpose of food production, and the realization of the value of time, work and money. 
Others, like the Chairman of the Toronto Board of Education, echoed this sentiment when he stated, "in these troubled days, may the boys and girls in our own schools learn the lessons of true patriotism and thus prepare themselves to champion loyalty, fair play and truth." A 1941 government issued handbook (shown below) states that, "this challenge [of Farm Service] is a call to you to take your place in this line of defence and man it so effectively that Great Britain and her allies- fighting for life, liberty and freedom, ours as much as theirs, need never fear a shortage of food." 
In the war's closing years, approximately 35,000 Ontario students were enrolled in Farm Service and stationed on sixty farms across the province. This number included members of Canadian Girls in Training, whose summer program was combined with the Farmerettes. More young women than men were engaged in this service, which was partly attributable to the men fighting on the front, as well as men's tendencies to seek more lucrative summer employment elsewhere in the expanding wartime economy.
Below are several pages of The Handbook for Students Registering for Farm Service in Collegiate Institutes, High, Vocational and Continuation Schools of Ontario Under Dominion Provincial Training, a pamphlet issued in 1941 by the Minister of Education in Co-operation with the Minister of Agriculture and the Minister of Labour.
Image reproductions are courtesy of the Royal Botanical Gardens's Canadian Centre for Historical Horticultural Studies.
Wartime Farm Labour Program In Ontario, Labour Gazette, April 1943, http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/oldlabourstudies/onlinelearning/article.php?id=856 (accessed September 14, 2017)
 Empire Days in the Schools of Ontario, May 23, 1940 quoted in Charles M. Johnston, "The Children's War: The Mobilization of Ontario Youth During the Second World War" In Patterns of the Past: Interpreting Ontario's History edited by Laurel Sefton MacDowell, et al. (Dundurn Press, 1996), 357.
The Handbook for Students Registering for Farm Service in Collegiate Institutes, High, Vocational and Continuation Schools of Ontario Under Dominion Provincial Training, 1941, item found at the Royal Botanical Garden's Canadian Centre for Historical Horticultural Studies
 Jeff Keshen, "Revisiting Canada's Civilian Women During World War II" Histoire Sociale/ Social History vol. 30, no. 60, 1997, 364-365.
On July 2, 1950 on Steep Rock Lake, north of the small mining town of Atikokan, an isolated community in Northwestern Ontario, Gordon Edwards and his wife were fishing. Suddenly they felt the air vibrate. Their first thought was that they were experiencing the effects of a mining blast- a common occurrence at the time as Steep Rock Iron Mines and Caland Mine were both operational. Gordon climbed up a rock face to peek over the bay and get a closer look. Peering through a space in the rock he "could see a large shiny object resting on the water in the curve of the far shoreline..." His wife climbed up to join him and "it was still there. It looked like two saucers stuck together, one upside down on top of the other. Round, black-edged ports appeared to be about four feet apart around the edge." Even more surprising, "the top had what looked like hatch covers open, and moving around over its surface were about ten queer looking little figures." These figures "moved like an automation, and did not turn around- that is right around: they just changed the direction of their feet." After a few moments, the spacecraft lifted itself into the air. A flash of yellow, red and blue lights emanated from it, and then, without warning, it vanished into thin air. Terrified by what they saw, Edwards and his wife vowed never to return to the site.
But Gordon broke his promise. A few days later he went back to the site with a friend under the pretext of fishing, so as not to alarm their wives. This time, he brought a camera. On their first visit Edwards and his friend saw nothing, but on the third evening at Sawmill Bay on Steep Rock Lake they came into contact with the saucer. Edwards recounted:
It all happened in split seconds. There was the "Saucer" in the same spot. I swung the boat into the wind, my friend made a dive for his camera, and I for mine, while trying to hold the boat into the wind. My hand was so stiff from the cold and holding the steering control that I couldn't even feel the camera. My friend was trying to stand up, and in the excitement hold on while the boat bobbed up and down. The result was neither of us had a chance of a picture.
Edwards figured that the "little beings" must have heard them clumsily grabbing for their cameras because they started to disappear into the craft's hatches. "There was a terrific high-pitched whiz, almost a blast, and [the spacecraft] was gone."
The above story and quotations are taken from the September and October 1950 edition of the Steep Rock Echo, a monthly periodical issued to employees of Steep Rock Iron Mines. (For a full rendition of the sighting please view the Steep Rock Echo pages found at the bottom of this blog post.) The sighting received a mix reaction from the community, with one letter to the editor sarcastically asking, "are you sure it was tea your correspondent was drinking, and not something stronger?" Nevertheless, media interested was piqued, and the account was picked up by the Port Arthur News Chronical. One woman felt that the Steep Rock Sighting was a wonderful story, and said that her children enjoyed it very much. In contrast, another woman was reportedly scared for days after reading the story.
B.J. Eyton, a Chief Chemist at Steep Rock Iron Mines, claimed that after the Chronical story was released many other Atikokan men began reporting sightings of unidentified crafts. Some saw "what appeared to be very small manlike figures on the craft, which fled at their approach." Eyton also stated that Gordon and his wife's account was the most detailed of the stories, and that he believed their account because they were "well known to him."
Although the sighting made quite a splash in Northwestern Ontario, it was Frank Edwards (no relation to Gordon), a leading American broadcast journalist and "flying saucer" enthusiast, who first brought mass attention to the Steep Rock Sighting in his 1966 book, Flying Saucers - Serious Business. Edwards became one of the most recognized American broadcasters of the era through his numerous publications of strange occurrences, including Strangest of All (1956), Stranger than Science (1959), Strange People (1962), and Strange World (1964). The Steep Rock Sighting fit perfectly into the mould of stories he liked to tell, and his recounting of it helped put the sighting on UFO researchers' map all the way up to the present day.
Unfortunately for UFO enthusiasts and researchers, the Steep Rock Sighting turned out to be an elaborate hoax. As was later revealed, Gordon wrote the story as a means of entertaining his colleagues and to "ridicule newspaper accounts that described 'little green men'- accounts popularized by Frank Edwards." In 1974, UFO researcher Robert T. Badgley wrote the President of Steep Rock Iron Mines to inquire about the sighting and get at the full truth. He received the response that "the story was entirely fictitious and written solely for the amusement of our somewhat isolated community."
But by the time of Badgley's 1974 inquiry, the Steep Rock Sighting had already taken on a life of its own. After Edwards's 1966 book, scientist and UFO researcher Jacques Vallee repeated the story in his own 1969 work, Passport to Magonia, a popular book that is still considered part of the UFO literature canon.
Today, it might seem easy to ridicule those who believed the sighting actually occurred, especially since it was revealed that Gordon Edwards wrote the story as a prank. But the sighting's original, purported authenticity must be placed in its historical context. The Cold War was in full swing and the space age was heating up. As just one example, in the same Steep Rock Echo issue which reported the sighting, one headline read "First Rocket Trip to Moon Planned." North Americans were looking to the skies and wondering, fantasizing about where humans would be living in the next decades and century. A plethora of science fiction movies (of varying quality) over the 1950s and 1960s also helped to stimulate already fertile imaginations. The Steep Rock sighting also occurred only three years after American pilot Kenneth Arnold's famous claim in June 1947 that he saw several UFOs near Mount Rainier, in Washington state (the first "modern" UFO sighting), and the infamous Roswell UFO sighting only a few weeks later. In this context, it is easier to understand why the Steep Rock Sighting was taken at face value by UFO enthusiasts and some members of the public.
Almost seventy years later, very few people in Atikokan seem to remember the Steep Rock hoax, even those who were alive in 1950 when it occurred. But its legacy lives on in various websites and books, some of which still present the sighting as a factual occurrence rather than the hoax it turned out to be. For UFO researchers and enthusiasts, it has all the makings of a great sighting: a landed UFO, coloured lights, vibrating air, and strange little aliens. Perhaps that is why the story took on a life of its own, and why it has such longevity. Certainly some peoples' desire to believe the story must account for part of it. What can be said for certain is that when the story is distilled down to its core, the Steep Rock Sighting provides a fun and humorous example of a small town man committing a big time hoax.
This blog post was co-written with Adam Montgomery.
 Steep Rock Echo, September and October 1950. Atikokan Centennial Museum.
 John Robert Colombo. UFOs Over Canada: Personal Accounts of Sightings and Close Encounters (Willowdale: Hounslow Press, 1992)
The Women's Institute (WI) was founded by Adelaide Hunter Hoodless on February 19, 1897 in Stoney Creek, Ontario. However, the story really began in 1889, when Adelaide's fourteen month old son, John Harold, passed away from "summer complaint," an intestinal ailment caused by drinking impure milk. Adelaide was shocked by her own "ignorance of domestic hygiene" and "realized that if she, as a careful parent and an educated person, was ignorant of basic domestic science knowledge, then there must be thousands more women like her." After her son's death she devoted herself to promoting domestic science education. She believed that "the educational system in force in Ontario at the time to be absolutely wrong. She did not approve, at all, of educating boys and girls along the same lines, when their life work was so vastly different." After several attempts at realizing her vision, including the creation of a cooking school in Hamilton and promoting schools of domestic science in Guelph, the Women's Institute was finally realized.
The WI was created to support women living in rural communities. In one meeting, Hoodless explained that "women's work, homecraft and mothercraft, was much more important than men's since it dealt with the home and the care of the loved ones who dwelt therein." With these powerful ideas as its pillar, the Women's Institute became the largest international women's organization ever created. After its creation in Stoney Creek, many other places followed suit, with more than 2000 branches springing up in communities all across Ontario.
The Atikokan Branch
The Atikokan branch was formed on April 5, 1922, with an initial membership of nineteen women. By the end of its first year this number grew to thirty one. The Atikokan Branch of the WI was integral to the community's development. As this community was (and still is) isolated, the WI was indispensable because it offered many services to the community that were otherwise not available. For instance, the WI sidewalk committee was instrumental in repairing roads and laying cinder sidewalks. Below is an Atikokan Centennial Museum label that shows other positive additions the WI made to the town.
The Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario (FWIO) website offers a PDF listing all of the Women's Institute Branches- Past and Present. This list states that the Atikokan branch was operational until 1979.
Tweedsmuir History Book
In the 1920s, WI members began collecting and recording community histories. In 1925, the Committee for Historical Research and Current Events was formed and suggested that "more time be given to the study of local history in the hopes of gaining greater insight into the lives and thoughts of our ancestors." By the mid 1930s Lady Tweedsmuir, wife of Governor General Lord Tweedsmuir, took an interest in the WI. She suggested that the WI of Ontario follow in the footsteps of its English counterpart and keep detailed history books.
In 1945, a campaign was launched to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the WI. As a way of celebrating, branches were encouraged to start collecting their local histories. In 1947, these books were officially named "The Tweedsmuir Village History Books," as a tribute to Lord Tweedsmuir, who passed away a few years earlier. The Federated FWIO website states that "a decade later the Provincial Board reported that 989 Branches across the province were compiling Tweedsmuir History Books."
The Atikokan Branch began creating its book in 1951. Mrs. Phil Rawn was credited with compiling a lot of the information. J. Munn was responsible for most of the assembly. Mrs. Tom Rawn and D.S. McCuaig provided the bulk of the information recorded about Atikokan's early life. Mrs. Rooney and other community members contributed photographs. Organizations also aided in the book's creation. To offer some examples, Steep Rock Iron Mines provided a dearth of information "as they [were] closely associated with the growth of Atikokan." Numerous town churches and organizations also provided information to include in the book's pages.
Lady Tweedsmuir's foreword above states:
I am so glad to hear that the Women's Institutes of Ontario are going to compile village history books. Events move very fast nowadays, houses are pulled down, new roads are made, and the aspect of the countryside changes completely sometimes in a short time.
Lady Tweedsmuir's words encouraged WI members to become local historians. Not only did they collect and preserve newspaper articles, photographs, institutional histories, literary prose and art, they also used oral histories as a means to record the past. As such, these books have become a window into the past, giving details about rural Ontario life; preserved for present and future generations to enjoy. And, true to Lady Tweedsmuir's statement, these books have become an invaluable resource for historians. As an Atikokan Centennial Museum employee, I can attest that I have referenced the local Tweedsmuir book several times to locate historical information. Every so often I flip through the book to find names of community members that may have not been recorded in the museum's accession records. Because of this resource, many people once labeled as "unidentified" have been given names in the museum's records.
The FWIO is still in existence today, with many active branches throughout Ontario. They "envision an Ontario where women work together for safe, healthy families, communities and pursue an enriched and balanced lifestyle." Preserving history is still an important activity for the group. In 2010 an agreement was made with the Ontario Genealogical Society and the FWIO to digitize the Tweedsmuir books. The FWIO website states that "this is great news to the WI. Besides having the original documents remain locally, the whole world will be able to access the Tweedsmuirs online to conduct family research, learn about our rich communities, and discover the wonderful work that has been created by WI members." The FWIO also has digital collections available, including ten digitized versions of Tweedsmuir Community History Books. Interested parties can also visit the Erland Lee Museum, the birthplace of the WI in Stoney Creek, located just east of Hamilton. This structure stands proudly on top of the beautiful Niagara escarpment.
For those interested in the Atikokan's Tweedsmuir History Book please visit the Atikokan Centennial Museum. There is also a copy of the book at the Atikokan Public Library.
 Linda M. Ambrose. For Home and Country: The Centennial History of the Women's Institutes in Ontario (Boston Mills Press, 1996), 17.
 Ibid., 19.
 Ibid., 19.
 Ibid., 21.
 Ibid., 22.
 Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario. "Branches: Past & Present, http://www.fwio.on.ca/branches-past-present (accessed March 26, 2017)
 Allan A. Viita. A History of Atikokan: 75th Anniversary Edition, 68.
 Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario. "Tweedsmuir History Books," http://www.fwio.on.ca/tweedsmuir-history-books (accessed March 26, 2017)
 Atikokan Branch of the Women's Institute, Tweedsmuir History Book, Atikokan Centennial Museum.
 Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario, "About FWIO,"http://www.fwio.on.ca/about-fwio"
Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario. "Tweedsmuir History Books," http://www.fwio.on.ca/tweedsmuir-history-books (accessed March 26, 2017)
Logging in Northwestern Ontario dates back to the 17th century when voyageurs established canoe routes in the area. These routes later supported the growing industry at the close of the 19th century. In 1878 John A. MacDonald proposed the National Policy, which directly affected the lumber industry. This policy stipulated that a railway be built to connect eastern and western Canada, and that settlement of farmers in the west be encouraged. These events meant that more lumber was needed for railway ties and for the creation of new homes. Increased literacy at this time also impacted the need for lumber. More people reading meant more newspapers printed, and this trend marked the beginning of the pulp and paper industry in the region.1 This was a time when the country's resources were plentiful. Businessmen and provincial officials promoted northern Ontario “as a rich treasury of resources, recently unlocked by modern technology and ready for the taking by men of spirit and audacity.”2
Throughout the first half of the 20th century Ontario logging operations were conducted primarily out of winter camps. As this was seasonal labour, it attracted transient workers, with many coming from the prairies or southern Ontario.3 The 1920 figures given by the Dominion Bureau of Statistics shows the amount of men who worked in these camps. The number of Ontario wood employees on wages peaked that February when 19,099 men worked, and this figure fell to 6,551 in July.4 Many men chose to work in the lumber camps in the winter, and on farms or in the construction field in the summer. A smaller percentage of men worked in the lumber industry year round. These men worked in sawmills in the summer and in the bush camps in the winter.5
This expanding industry drew on immigrant workers for manpower. A 1921 report suggested that the Shevlin-Clarke Logging Company that operated in the Rainy River region, categorized the labour force as being 10% Swedish, 20% English and French Canadian, and 70% Russian, Australian, Polish and Central European.6 Americans were also drawn into the Ontario lumbering industry. J.A. Mathieu, who established the J.A. Mathieu Lumbering Company explained that he, “followed the pine trees that were disappearing in Minnesota and came to Canada in 1902.”7
The isolated bush camp has become an iconic northern Canadian image. It was cheaper to house workers in “rough, temporary camps” within a walking distance to the work site than to build roads or railways into the “ever moving cutting areas.”8 The majority of the camps before the 1950s lacked modern day conveniences. Many newcomers were, “appalled by the primitiveness of the bunkhouse that was to serve as their new home.”9 They had no electricity, and instead used candles or kerosene lanterns for light. Also, plumbing was non-existent; instead the men shared a six seater outhouse. Many, understandably so, opted to remain dirty rather than bathe in freezing cold water. Laundry also proved a challenge. At the turn of the century, operators became afraid of unsanitary conditions, and offered laundry services to the men, although not all camps were given this luxury. If they were not, sometimes wives at the camp, or an Indigenous community member would volunteer to wash the men's clothing. Albert Cain, a lumberjack from Atikokan, recalled that the men's beds were usually made out of hay, and that it was so cold that you "had to keep a fire all night."10 These camps were reformed in the 1950s, and provided men with much better living conditions.11
Over the course of the century other innovations made life easier for the lumberjack. For instance, the first chainsaw used by the Ontario-Minnesota Pulp and Paper company was in 1951. What was to become a revolutionary piece of equipment was not an instant success. Many men chose to carry a swede saw instead, as the early chainsaws were heavy, and often needed two men for operation. However, as technology became better (and lighter) the chainsaw became the obvious first choice. Like the swede saw, the use of horses became obsolete with the introduction of new technologies, namely tractors and trucks. The Ontario-Minnesota Pulp and Paper company notes that the last horse used by its company was in 1965.12 Trucks transporting heavy logs on the highway is now a common site.
Trucks did not just replace horses, but also the infamous log drives. Although these drives no longer occur, the imagery they evoke is permanently ingrained into the Canadian psyche, and in turn, contributes to our sense of identity. A long, taxing and often dangerous task, these drives were essential for getting logs from the bush to the mills. In the Rainy River District, two drives were used- one on the Little Turtle River System and the other on the Seine River System.13 These drives brought logs to Fort Frances three to five months after the ice melted in the spring. They did not always make it and sometimes were frozen in until the following year. These drives continued until the completion of Highway 11 in 1972.14
Driving and floating operations required fewer men than the winter logging activities, so professional bush workers usually filled these positions.15 Often the best men on the winter camps were chosen, and this gave the log driver's position a level of prestige. There were several important jobs to be done while conducting a drive. Improvement crews removed rocks and smoothed or reinforced jagged banks that obscured the path of logs. They also built dams along the way so that an increased volume of water could be released if needed. Jam breaking was one of the most dangerous jobs. Men would “clamber out to the front of a jam and pry away at the lead logs, trying to find the kingpin which would release the jam. If the kingpin was pried loose the jam might burst apart, leaving barely enough time to jump clear.”16 Sometimes dynamite was used to break up stubborn jams, but this was a last resort effort as this may damage the logs, and it was usually a perilous task. After the majority of the logs made it down stream the “sweepers” pushed along any logs that had been left behind.
The Shevlin-Clarke Logging Company registering their timber mark. These marks are still used by logging companies when they transport their logs from privately owned land. They certify ownership and help prevent theft. The registered symbols are branded on the logs by timber mallets. Atikokan Museum Collection 2017.90.2.
Logging remains a large industry in Northwestern Ontario. This month the Atikokan Centennial Museum is hosting Centennial College Forestry students to teach them about the industry's rich history. I hope that the information and photographs presented helps ground their experiences in the field, making for a richer appreciation of the industry and the changes it has gone through.
 Ian Radforth, Bush Workers and Bosses: Logging in Northern Ontario, 1900-1980. (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1987), 17
 Ibid., 9.
 Ralph O'Donnell Interview, 1985, transcript at the Atikokan Centennial Museum.
 Ian Radforth, Bush Workers and Bosses: Logging in Northern Ontario, 1900-1980., 26.
 Ibid., 29.
 Ibid., 33.
 Ibid., 15.
 Ibid., 26.
 Ibid., 91.
 Albert Cain Interview, 1985, transcript at the Atikokan Centennial Museum.
 Ian Radforth, Bush Workers and Bosses: Logging in Northern Ontario, 1900-1980.,91.
 Unknown author. "The Ontario-Minnesota Pulp and Paper Company: Operations in the Atikokan Area," 1974 In Articles on Mining and Logging in the Atikokan Area. (A collection of articles put together by an unknown source in an unknown year.)
 Ian Radforth, Bush Workers and Bosses: Logging in Northern Ontario, 1900-1980., 64.
 Ibid., 64.
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