The era of wharfin­gers and man­gel-wurzels

The Glengarry News - - News - BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL News Staff

You’d be hard-pressed to find a wharfin­ger or dig up some man­gel-wurzel in Glengarry these days, but thanks to a pair of re­cent do­na­tions, it’s be­come some­what eas­ier, in a sense.

Al­lan MacDon­ald, archivist at the Glengarry County Archives, re­cently re­ceived a group of seven sel­dom-seen busi­ness direc­to­ries and gazetteers dat­ing from the mid-19th to early 20th cen­turies from the Corn­wall Mu­seum, books full of cen­sus-type in­for­ma­tion, de­tail­ing pop­u­la­tions, oc­cu­pa­tions, and crop and live­stock sta­tis­tics from com­mu­ni­ties across the coun­try at the time of pub­li­ca­tion.

“But when I re­ceived them, the bind­ings were split, or torn,” Mr. MacDon­ald told The News.

“So (Alexandria res­i­dent) John (Hope) stepped up and said, ‘I’ll cover the cost (ap­prox­i­mately $500) to re­pair them,” they were re­bound at a firm in Smiths Falls, “and now they’re us­able.”

Mr. MacDon­ald re­ferred to the col­lec­tion as “an ear­lier ver­sion of the Yel­low Pages” which pro­vides re­searchers with “source in­for­ma­tion for the busi­nesses of Glengarry, and other sta­tis­tics, ”largely from a time pre-dat­ing news­pa­per coverage.

The re­tired Deputy-Archivist for On­tario added that the re­cent ac­qui­si­tion was quite sig­nif­i­cant. “These are from a time when gov­ern­ments weren’t col­lect­ing this in­for­ma­tion,” ex- plained Mr. MacDon­ald.

“If you go to an archives, fed­eral or pro­vin­cial... you’re not go­ing to find this sta­tis­ti­cal in­for­ma­tion. So cap­tured in this way, it’s quite re­mark­able.”

For Mr. MacDon­ald, the books – which, as part of the Archives’ inventory, will be fully ac­ces­si­ble to the pub­lic – also help pro­vide an in­ter­est­ing con­trast to mod­ern-day Glengarry.

“These quiet, sleepy in­ter­sec­tions to­day, in Glen Robertson, Glen Sand­field, Kirk Hill, in Lag­gan... were hum­ming 100, 150 years ago,” he said. “It’s kind of an in­ter­est­ing thing.”

In case you didn’t know, a wharfin­ger is the owner or keeper of a wharf, while man­gel­wurzel is a beet de­vel­oped in the 18th cen­tury as a fod­der crop for feed­ing.

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