Let It Snow – Winter in Flamborough

Winter. Children love to build snowmen. Adults hope that the preparations they have made during the Fall will last through the cold dark months until Spring.  And everyone loves the social occasions – sleighrides, parties and Christmas.  The following vignette, ‘Let it Snow’, draws from material held in the Flamborough Archives and illustrates some of the experiences of  Flamborough winters in days gone past.

Photo # 47: Great Falls on Grindstone Creek

“As the December snow swirled around the village, the last preparations for winter were completed. Hay was stacked, corn was heaped in sheds, flour-filled bags were packed in bins in clay cellar pits, meat was hung in the smoke house, fruits were dried and stored in bags, nuts had been gathered. The winter supply of tallow candles, made from every available source of grease, was packed in boxes. Firewood was stacked beside each dwelling. The Christmas season with its joyous traditional festive customs, was ushered in.”
(WEFHS Heritage Paper #8 Dec 1981. From “Wilderness Christians: The Moravian Mission to the Delaware Indians” by Emma E. Gray c. 1790.)

Photo # 720: Picking up farm equipment at Aldershot Station

Although that description was based on life in Pennsylvania, winter in Flamborough was not much different.  Women canned, dried and prepared food for the winter months; men chopped wood and repaired or purchased new equipment for the next season.

As Dorothy Turcotte writes in “Carlisle Beginnings”:
“Winter in the country used to require quite a bit of planning and preparation. Whenever possible, families tried to be self-sufficient. Those who had hogs weighing around 200 lbs would slaughter them to provide a winter supply of meat. The entire family would be involved in making sausages which would be stored in earthenware crocks. … Fat would be rendered on the cook stove. This could be dangerous, for if any fat splashed on to the top of the stove, a serious fire could result. The rendered fat was lard, the ingredient that pioneer women used to produce beautiful cakes and pastries. The fat was also combined with wood ash to make laundry soap.”

Photo # 2410: Rabbit hunt on Christmas Day
Photo # 1157: Logging in West Flamborough Township
In the early days, there were no snowploughs to clear the roads in the country.  Roads and laneways were shovelled by hand, often creating tunnels between the snow banks.
Photo # 2413: Bus between Hamilton & Galt c. 1923
Photo # 1092: Ford V-8 at the top of Pepper Hill,, c. 1938
To cut ice, men drove their teams onto Twelve Mile Creek and sawed large blocks which were stored in sawdust in an ice house for use in the summer.”
Photo # 54: Ice cutting in East Flamborough Township
Along with ice cutting, snow and cold temperatures meant that the creeks and ponds were prime  surfaces for hockey and ice skating.  The snow provided perfect surfaces for sleigh rides and sleds – Pepper Hill was a favourite spot. Curling was also a popular sport and the area had its share of champions.   The West Flamboro Curling Club was formed in 1838. “They played on the dam at the old Clark mill, north of the village. This club was one of the strongest in Ontario. In 1861, Dr. Hamilton was one of a  party of four, who played against Troy, Albany and New York and won all their matches.” (West Flamboro Township centennial 1850-1950 pg.  46.)

Christmas trees were becoming popular in the mid 1800’s thanks to the German customs introduced by the Prince Consort and Queen Victoria.  The Illustrated London News carried a description of the decorations  “Pendent from the branches are elegant trays, baskets, bon-bonières, and other receptacles for sweetmeats. Fancy cakes, gilt gingerbread and eggs filled with sweetmeats are also suspended by variously coloured ribbons from the branches. The tree which stands on a table covered with white damask, is supported at the root by piles of sweets of a larger kind and by toys and dolls”.

Christmas postcards were popular and one could  find pictures and text to fit any occasion – even sending money.  Some were very elaborate. The postcard below with the church was made so that if it was held up to the light, the stained glass windows seemed to glow, as did the moon.

Isabella Drummond Post Card Collection
Isabella Drummond Post Card Collection
Isabella Drummond Post Card Collection

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