The quiet village of Dunvegan, in Eastern Ontario is home to the Glengarry Pioneer Museum, which opened its doors in 1962 under the auspices of the Glengarry Historical Society. Its mandate has been to preserve, maintain, interpret and promote the artifacts, records, culture and events of the pioneers who settled in the area in order to create a tangible link with the past, and to ensure that the present generation and those to come might know and appreciate the experiences of their forebears.
The Museum’s original structure started life as the MacIntosh store in the 1840s. It is this period in which it remains. Once established as a museum, eight other buildings have slowly been relocated to the site from the surrounding areas to help interpret and house its rich history.
The area in which the Museum covers is primarily Glengarry county, the oldest in what was Upper Canada, now Ontario. All artifacts, whether archival documents, photographs, objects or even oral histories are items which have some link to this area, and are predominantly from the 19th century.
Explore this site more, and make plans to visit this gem of a Museum, hidden away in beautiful, rural Glengarry.
Below is a list of the historical buildings that can be found at the museum, and a little history behind each one.
The Orange Lodge was built in 1867 and served as a meeting place for Orangemen right here in Dunvegan. Supplies and equipment were stored in the lower half of the Lodge throughout the period of the threatened Fenian Invasion, 1866-1870. For most of its history, however, the Lodge saw rather more peaceful pursuits, acting as a community centre for the Dunvegan community. LOL No. 1158 disbanded in 1977 and the Lodge was converted to a private residence. The Orange Lodge is now the Museum’s first year-round facility, and displays special exhibits as well as hosting the museum’s gift shop.
The old Star Inn, built in the 1840s, is original to the museum site and was first used as a settler’s home. In the 1860s, it served the community as a store, and later as a hotel and tavern along the stagecoach route between Ottawa and Montreal. A descendant of Donald MacMillan, the last owner of the Star Inn, donated the building to the Glengarry Historical Society who opened it as a museum in 1962. The downstairs includes a parlour, kitchen and bar-room, which is believed to be the oldest bar in Eastern Ontario.
Our Blacksmith Shop is believed to our oldest building on site, dating from around 1800. It was operated by Olivier Hamelin in the nearby village of Apple Hill from about 1930 until his death in 1984. The blacksmith shoed horses, made tools, repaired farm implements, sleighs and carriages, and often served as a veterinarian as well. In 1871, there were 89 blacksmith shops in Glengarry County; Oliver was the last Glengarrian blacksmith.
The Roxborough Township Hall was erected in 1869 in the town of Warina. It was moved to the museum site in 1985 to house rotating exhibits from the collection which include a general store, doctor’s office and a display on the roles of women in the household. The Hall also includes as its special exhibits for 2012, a display on the Creation of Cloth and a War of 1812 display to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the war.
To the south of the Roxborough Hall is the Drive (or Livery) shed. It was originally built as the livery shed behind the Kenyon Township Hall in Greenfield. It was moved to the museum in 1966 and now houses a variety of farming equipment including plows, a Jamieson stoning machine, a horse treadmill, and an apple cider press.
This small Cheese Factory is fashioned after one that stood in Lancaster in 1826. A cheese maker would set his warm fresh milk to heat about eight in the morning and have curds by two in the afternoon. Most of the cheese was pressed into wheels and packed for shipping in round veneer boxes. Whey was run out of the back for collection by the farmers, or fed to the factory hogs.
The Stewart Barn was built from lumber on the farm ceded by the Crown to Alexander Stewart in 1860. For six generations, Stewarts and MacRaes had farmed the land, and in 2004 they donated the barn to the museum. It is now home to the Museum’s winter artifacts andsleigh collection that includes: the Lancaster-Hawkesbury Mail sleigh, a hearse sleigh, a “one horse open sleigh”, and a fancy cutter from the once-prosperous Alexandria carriage-makers, Munro & McIntosh.
The Trapper’s Cabin is home to Angus MacRae’s trapping collection. This building represents the important role that trapping and the fur trade has played in Canadian history. The cabin was originally built in the 1880s as a home for James and Maggie McBain and stood on Dyer Rd. In 1979, Angus moved the cabin to Catherine Street in Maxville to use as a work area for trapping, which included tanning hides, cleaning pelts, and storing his collection of traps, pelts, and wildlife. In 2005, he donated the building and his entire collection to the museum.
The Campbell Barn came from the Skye area and contains the museum’s large collection of tools. On the ground floor you will see a display of logging tools used to harvest timber, as well as a display of dairy farm equipment.
The newest building on the museum’s grounds is the SS#1 Kenyon Schoolhouse, which is nicknamed the Big Beaver School. It was built in 1910, and was the third school to be built as School Section #1 (the first was built in 1842, and the second in 1874). This school was located west of Laggan on the 8th concession of Kenyon. After that, it was located behind the present day Laggan Public School for close to 20 years until it was moved to the museum in 2011