By Diva Heather Boa
SEAFORTH – Every great trip starts with a cup of coffee, some great tunes on the radio and a cool pair of sunglasses to dim a sunny day.
That’s how my day began, touring inland along Hwy. 8 past small rural communities strung together by fields of yellowing soy beans, tall corn stalks and the stubbles of cut hay on an adventure that would take me to three places I’d been previously and two places I’d never explored before. The route, from the first stop to the last, is about 10 km and the time requirements depends on how long you like to dawdle. All the sites are significant in the history of Seaforth and area.
These were my five stops of the day, keeping in mind these historical notes that were gathered by researcher Diane Smith for a project done by the Municipality of Huron East to expand the Huron County Historical Society’s Driving Tour a few years ago:
Harpurhey – The old Huron Road passed through this hamlet west of Seaforth, zigging off the highway on what’s now Harpurhey Road and zagging back onto the highway a few kilometres later. A commemorative cairn recounts the opening of the Huron Road by the Canada Company in 1828, along with the harvesting of the first wheat by Madame Van Egmond at a dinner party on a hot August day in 1829 following an 18-mile walk from Goderich by the “usual Canada Company lot” of Dunlop, Pryor, Strickland, Mercer-Jones and others.
Harpurhey Presbyterian Church – (Lot 51 Con 1 HRS Tuckersmith Township) This cemetery was established in 1847 at the same time the Presbyterian Church was built. Early pioneers tried to obtain the services of a minister beginning in 1835, at a time when Harpurhey was the social and industrial centre of its section of the Huron Tract. Because it is one of the oldest cemeteries in the area, some of Tuckersmith’s earliest settlers are buried here. For example, Robert Scott, Sr. and Archibald Dickson, early settlers in Roxboro, rest here. Other prominent citizens include Dr. William Chalk, whose home was the first brick building in Harpurhey, Rev. William Cresswell, the first Anglican minister in the area, Jonathon Carter, an early Justice of the Peace, and T.T. Coleman, a businessman in Seaforth. In 1879, Harpurhey Church joined with First Presbyterian Church of Seaforth. The cemetery is still active.
Van Egmond House, 80 Kippen Road, Egmondville – Owned and operated by the Van Egmond Foundation, this is an excellent example of a Georgian country-manor house dating to the mid-19th century. It was built by Constant Louis Van Egmond, son of Anthony Van Egmond who played a key role in opening the Huron Road to Goderich in the early 1830s. Constant Van Egmond founded the village of Egmondville in 1845. The façade and side elevation show the symmetry characteristic of Georgian architecture. Note also the six-over-six windows, the large chimneys, the awning-profiled four-columned verandah, and the decorative brickwork frieze of the façade. The door transom and sidelights are covered in the above photograph. The slop brick used for the walls was made in the brickyard nearby. Constant Van Egmond was a magistrate and, as there was no other jail in the village, he had the cellar windows of his house barred and used part of the cellar as a jail. (Inside viewing by appointment only at this time of year.)
Historical Main Street Seaforth – The towers of Cardno Music Hall and the Town Hall present a magnificent vista to frame a heritage Main Street. Inside the Town Hall is the Seaforth & Area Museum. Its collection, with many items donated by Frank Sills of Sills Hardware and Andrew Y. McLean of the Huron Expositor, give you a window into the community’s people and past. There is also an introduction to military history, but remember to stop by the Legion with a request to see the Frank Phillips’ collection of armed forces artifacts in the Branch 156 mini-museum. Call 527-0740 to arrange group tours. Take a walk around town and you will see many fine examples of historic architecture.
The Roundhouse, 140 Duke St., Seaforth – This unique exhibition hall is one of the few remaining two-storey octagonal halls in Ontario. Owned by the Agricultural Society, it is also called a crystal palace. An Agricultural Society was established in Harpurhey in 1845 with members from part of Tuckersmith, Hullett and McKillop Townships. The Society built the roundhouse some time between 1900, when the land was bought, and September of 1902, when the first fall fair was held here.
Events to Plan Your Trip Around
170th Seaforth Fall Fair
Where: 140 Duke St., Seaforth
When: Thursday, Sept. 17 to Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015
Ambassador competitions; swine, miniature heavy horse, scales, tails paws and claws; auctions, draws and races; food and music.
More information: http://seaforthagriculturalsociety.on.ca/
Where: Van Egmond House, 80 Kippen Rd., Egmondville
When: Sunday, Sept. 27, 2015
Vendors, exhibits, meat pies, apple fritters, musical entertainment. Heritage House open.