The era of wharfingers and mangel-wurzels
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.