Final list of names for Wellington County Hall of Fame

The following is a re-print of a past column by former Advertiser columnist Stephen Thorning, who passed away on Feb. 23, 2015.
Some text has been updated to reflect changes since the original publication and any images used may not be the same as those that accompanied the original publication.

This week I end, for now, the Wellington Hall of Fame, with some more of the names suggested by readers.

Hugh Templin came up with this idea more than 60 years ago, and the response in 2004 has been most gratifying, interesting and educational.

E.A. nominates Lillian Daymond (1896-1983). Born in Ostic, Eramosa Township; graduated from Hamilton Normal School in 1916, taught public school in Wellington County for 44 years, 36 of them the Grade 1 class in Fergus, where she inspired hundreds of students.

D.M. offers another teacher, Florence Lillian Rae (1904-1983). She was born on a farm on the fourth line of West Garafraxa, and lived there until moving to Fergus in 1948. She taught at Pilkington SS 4 from 1925 to 1929, SS 10 West Garafraxa 1929-1930, SS 2 West Garafraxa 1930-1939, SS 1 West Garafraxa 1939-1965, and at John Black School from 1965 until her retirement in 1969.

Several readers have suggested Jim Keating of Elora, head of James Keating Construction Ltd. A builder of houses in Elora and elsewhere in the county since the 1950s, has left his imprint permanently on Elora with several major subdivisions, which have more than doubled the size of the village.

Elora residents are especially proud of their illustrious natives. Additional nominations have come for two people already nominated: Katharine A. Marston, editor of the Elora Express in the 1950s, for her work in promoting conservation, her famous editorials, and her tireless work in establishing the Elora Gorge Park. David Boyle, Elora’s public school principal in the 1870s, and a pioneer in geological and archaeological research in Ontario, has also received multiple nominations.

J.B. of Elora would like to add J.K. Macdonald to the list. He served as an officer in World War I, and was founding president of Elora Legion Branch 229. As reeve of Elora he championed the installation of the village’s water system, and he spearheaded reforms at the Wellington County Home for the Aged in the early 1950s that led to the appointment of Mr. and Mrs. Wilfred Roszell as superintendents.

Two nominations came in for Quincy D. Whale, a noted Holstein breeder who farmed near Goldstone in Peel Township. He earned a Master Breeder’s Shield. One of his cows, Meadowbrae Echo Rosebud, attained a world record, producing over 200,000 pounds of milk in her lifetime.

E.W. adds the name of James S. Gale to the list. His parents came from Scotland to Pilkington in 1848, taking up the last vacant farm in the township. At school, James was strongly influenced by David Boyle’s teaching. As an adult, he was the first Canadian missionary in Korea, arriving there in the 1880s. He compiled the first Korean-English dictionary, and later translated the entire Bible into Korean. Another major task was his translation of the 17th Century Korean novel, The Cloud Dream of the Nine, into English, and published in 1922. He retired to England, to a house in Bath once occupied by Charles Dickens. His reputation in Korea remains strong to this day.

I.M. took the time to nominate three people J.E. Dixon (1900-1983) was born on Con. 7 of Maryborough, and farmed there with his wife, Jean, until 1964. For many years he was a director of the Union Telephone Co., one of the last independent systems in the province. The couple compiled A History of Maryborough Township, 1851-1876, which has been a valuable resource for local historians since its publication.

Dr. Earle J. Wildfang (1897-1962) was a much-loved country doctor, based at Moorefield from 1925 until his death. In winter he visited patients by horse and cutter. Local garage men built him a custom-designed snow vehicle. As well as his medical practice, he supported the community as a Sunday School superintendent and sports coach, and he started a local orchestra to play at dances and other functions.

John E. Murray (1892-1994), a local entrepreneur, started a well-drilling business at age 20, and also operated a threshing machine outfit for a number of years, doing custom work in north Wellington. In 1926 he entered the gravel business. By 1930 he owned a gravel crusher and three dump trucks, and had eight employees. During the 1930s he supplied gravel for road work across the county. The firm continues today, and remains a family-owned business. Now known as the Murray Group, its head office is in Moorefield, with operations in four locations.

D.H. adds three names to the list, one of them infamous rather than famous. Louis Colquhoun (1877-1911) started his career as a teacher and bookkeeper, but found more excitement as a train robber. In 1906, with the notorious American bandit Bill Miner, he held up the CPR’s Imperial Limited near Kamloops. The take was minimal, and the RCMP captured the men after a few days. Miner received a life sentence, and Colquhoun 25 years. He died in prison in 1911, and is buried in Clifford.

John Howes (1855-1922) became the leading sawmill operator in Minto, with operations there and elsewhere. At its peak, his chain ran eight sawmills in Wellington and elsewhere. He established the first electrical plant in Harriston in 1890, and provided local electrical service until 1921.

Elmer A. Howes (1896-1969) of Harriston was blinded in military action at Passchendale in 1917. On his return he was an active figure in the Harriston Legion, and a leading merchant, in the lumber business he ran with his brother Nelson. He was known far and wide as “the blind lumberman.”

J.B. has submitted the lengthiest list of nominees, most for Elora natives, and sufficient to be the basis of an Elora Hall of Fame should anyone decide to take up the idea.

Alex Kerr of Elora, a butcher who came to the area in 1870 as a supplier for the construction crew building the Wellington, Grey and Bruce, stayed in town, and established a retail business that spanned four generations of his family and more than a century of time. All were active in civic work of various types.

Roberta Allan, as Tweedsmuir curator with the Elora Womens Institute, pushed Elora council to celebrate the village’s sesquicentennial in 1982. That year, shortly before her death, she published her History of Elora, compiled from the Tweedsmuir history and her own records. She also had a career as a public school teacher.

Gerald Noonan, a product of Elora’s school systems, achieved distinction as a professor of English at Wilfrid Laurier University. He was responsible for a new edition of John Connon’s History of Elora.

Noel Edison has been organist and choirmaster at St. John’s Church in Elora for more than 25 years. He is the founding artistic director of the Elora Festival, currently celebrating its 25th season. In addition to his role as founding conductor of the Elora Festival Singers, he is conductor of the 180-voice Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the new 60-voice Mendelssohn Singers. He has toured extensively, and has been involved with a dozen CD recordings.

Pat Chataway of Elora established the Elora Community Theatre, resurrecting amateur theatrics in the village after the demise of the old Elora Players.

John Lowe of Pilkington achieved fame as a breeder of black Angus cattle. His prize animals won dozens of prizes at the Royal Winter Fair and other shows. A widely recognized expert on the breed, he was invited to judge shows as far away as Chicago.

Canon Robert Hulse of Elora, incumbent of St. John’s Church for 40 years, beginning in 1964. Under his leadership the congregation grew immensely. He played major roles in founding the Elora Festival, St. John’s Kilmarnock School, and St. Margaret’s School.

William Brown (1879-1964), noted horticulturist and plant breeder, specialized in many varieties, but achieved greatest fame with his peonies. In the 1950s his peony beds, totalling over four acres, became a tourist attraction. He was active in many horticultural organizations.

Diane Orr of Conn, a national director of the Federated Women’s Institutes of Canada.

I thank all those who took time to think about Wellington’s notable natives, and to drop a line or send an email with their nominations. The nominees span a wide range of endeavours. Some have made great contributions locally; others achieved fame on the other side of the world.

A few of those nominated have been subjects for this column. Dozens of others are suitable subjects, and I have added them to my pile of column ideas. More than a few will have brief
biographies published in this space over the next year or two.

*This column was originally published in the Advertiser on July 23, 2004.

Thorning Revisited