My family is descended from Downton. Impressive isn’t it? When I hear “Downton”, of course, I immediately think Downton Abbey. Being a fan of the television series, I conjure up images of large estates, beautiful gowns, tea and servants. Exciting right? Digging deeper, it didn’t take long to learn that this illusion was far from the truth. In fact, it is more ironic than anything, for the family I am speaking of, were paupers.
This family is the Pressey’s. My great-grandmother on my father’s side was Ella May Pressey. Her great-grandfather, George came from Downton, Wiltshire, England. Times were grim in Downton during his life. There was an agricultural depression during the 1830’s and many were out of work. According to a fascinating find I discovered on the internet: The Downton Story, it explained that the answer to this overwhelming poverty in the Wiltshire parish of Downton, was to send its poor to Canada. John Pracey (Pressey – George’s brother) and his wife and family, were amongst the first group of Downton folk to head over the Atlantic ocean, on the ship the Louisa, to Quebec, Canada. From there, they made their way down the St. Lawrence to the Great Lakes and eventually landed at Port Talbot, south of London, Ontario; a community that was once at the centre of a booming new world settlement. Words of favour were passed back to Downton and more enthusiastic villagers set sail for the new, and better, world.
The next group to arrive included George,my 4th great-grandfather, his wife, Mary and 5 children: Henry, Phineas, Frederick, Ann and George. They started their life in Canada at Port Burwell, Ontario as one of the first settlers to the area on what was part of the Talbot Settlement. To this day, many descendants of John and George Pressey still live in the area of Port Burwell having established a new history for the family name and a new history for this land we call Canada.
With my day job, I travel a lot around Southwestern Ontario. The past few days, I have been around Lambton-Kent County which has included Chatham, Blenheim, Ridgetown, Forest and Petrolia. I look forward to venturing into these oases every year because they are places I don’t get to very often in my everyday life. They are truly treasures to visit especially in the fall with the background of the vibrant fall leaves.
These are also places that are rich with rural culture. Farms, history, welcoming villagers and quaint little shops or attractions await guests, each with their own energy and allure. In Petrolia, I love the conservation area. There is a lot of space and trees. During the week, when school is back in, it is serene. I have down time in between appointments when I am travelling and I love to sit at the conservation area with my laptop and hear the peacefulness of the fall leaves sauntering to the ground. This is just one of 12 parks situated throughout the town.
Petrolia is also full of beautiful architecture. I took this picture of the Victoria Hall. It is one of my favourite buildings. I followed up with some research and learned that the building’s architect was George Durand of London. His name is attached to many buildings in Southwestern, Ontario including churches, schools and residences. Victoria Hall was built in 1889 during an oil boom. Petrolia was one of the first oil “boom towns” in North America. With the oil came money and with the money, came fantastic buildings like this one and many others that are still in existence today.
Although oil here is no longer considered “booming”, there are still active oil pumps . I grabbed a shot of that too. I’ve read about the “Petrolia Discovery” which is a historical site that takes visitors back to a 19th century oil experience. Having learned that, I think I just found an activity to take my family to next summer since it is a seasonal experience. Can’t wait. You might want to check it out too.
If you have ideas about other places to visit in Southwestern Ontario, please let me know. I’m always up for a local adventure!
I live right in the centre of Southwestern Ontario (or close to it). It is the most heavily populated area of Canada and contains the 401 which is one of the busiest highways in the world. What I love about living in this part of Canada (or Ontario) is that within 2 hours, I can reach many of Ontario’s big cities including Toronto. I can also find myself plenty of road trip destinations because this area is littered with dozens of quaint little towns and villages rich with culture, history and attractions. Or I can find tranquil quiet spots amongst the forests, pastures or rural settings throughout. It is wildly diverse.
One of these tranquil spots by most people’s definition would (what started out to) be a small hobby-farm outside of Woodstock. I know the owners quite well and have visited the farm a couple of times in the past but recently it has taken on a more pronounced identity that I have come to follow on Facebook. I find I look forward to the daily posts about the life of the animals on the farm. They each have a distinct name and personality that I love to see evolve through the post series. I am going to use the words right from its the Facebook page because those words, I think, capture the essence of this enchanting premise best.
FrogHollow – Rescue/Retirement Farm: We are a small family-run hobby farm in Southwestern Ontario, giving our many animals a safe place to live and love. They are all family, not food.
County Living – May 5, 2003: When we moved to the country we didn’t really come with a plan. We just decided we wanted to move our then, small family to greener pastures. We weren’t here very long before the barn looked mighty empty and we added some goats and a few chickens. Since then we’ve added a few more critters in need of a good safe place to call home…including a few more human residents too.
Heidi – 2003: Heidi is a sweet girl born to a feral Mother outside of our local corner store. We were asked to take her home to keep her out of harms way…who could say no to that cute face?
Bushy (aka Butch) – 2003: Butch, or as we would come to call him, Bushy (there was really nothing rough about this boy) was the cat with the big price tag as we liked to say. He was the ‘barn’ cat that we were asked to keep when we bought the farm. He didn’t stay a barn cat very long and soon traded his horseback naps to the comforts of the indoors and sleeping on beds. This is a boy who would be seen wandering far and wide (until he was promptly neutered), showed up home with a dislocated hip once, and then just disappeared one a rainy night. We called and searched for him but were just left missing him. ♥
Goats – 2004: Having no experience beyond dogs and cats we decided first to venture into goats. We started with three females and had one male on loan to us. As we would later come to realize, almost any animals that come here, stay here. Well Billy came and when we found out his fate upon return was not good he was here to stay too. The next spring we were blessed with the adventure of four beautiful baby goats. All of which enjoy the comfort of Mom and Dad by their side for life.
Cornelius Moves to the Country – June 2014: When I saw that poor Cornelius was living in a shelter surrounded by dogs I knew I needed to do something. When I called I found out he had actually been there for several months and many phone calls had still led to no takers. With his neuter scheduled, we made a plan to take the two hour drive to go pick him up the next week. My little one and I set out on our adventure to spring that pig from his jail and set him free in the green pastures at FrogHollow. We were sent off with a giant bag of produce, and his bag of pig pellets so off we went for the trip home to freedom. It didn’t take him long to start meeting the furry neighbours in the pasture over the fence or the ducks roaming free. Corny is the most talkative pig I’ve ever met and is more than willing to express how he feels daily (translation is still in progress!). He has made friends with long time resident and lone pig, Daisy and has even accepted his new Tamworth siblings, as long as he can be the boss. Not sure how that will go over as they begin to tower over him but we will love him all the same!!! Welcome home Cornelius! ♥
Charlotte and Wilbur – August 3, 2014: two new wonderful Tamworth pigs for us to become the proud new family of! Wilbur is a calm, cuddly boy who loves tummy rubs and stays close to his sister. Charlotte (aka Charlie) is a little more brave, adventurous, and ever so slightly more independent. Together they are the best of friends. We have all loved watching them meet new friends, play, fight, squeal, run, root, eat, and grow and grow and grow! They are a wonderfully fun addition to our barnyard and who have quickly gotten us wrapped around their trotters!! We owe their being here to the great family and volunteers at Cedar Row whom without we wouldn’t have our special red-haired beauties to love and spoil!!
This gives you a glimpse into life at FrogHollow. I encourage you to visit and “Like” the page on Facebook. There are more animals and stories for you to see. Awwww… life in Southwestern Ontario.
I was born, raised and live in Southwestern Ontario. You would think, with that much time spent in one area (over 40 years but under 42 years), I would be able to explain everything about it, right?. And being Canadian, I could define the Canadian experience – right? I’ll tell you, one can certainly have a Canadian foundation but really not know, nor understand, anything about what it is to a be a Canadian. It wasn’t until I spent 4 months of my life living and travelling abroad, that I began to realize I needed to explore my roots and embrace my nationality.
During university, I spent 4 months living, studying and travelling abroad. I was based in London, England, but being in such close proximity to so many other countries, I used my weekends, school breaks and summer, to travel the UK and a bit of Europe. London didn’t feel much different from Toronto. Big buildings, lot’s of traffic and resources; very cosmopolitan. When I got to travel outside the city I was in awe. Vast green forests and hills. There were rocks and sheep and quaint little cobblestone roads. I went up the Eiffel Tower in Paris and couldn’t believe the beauty of all the twinkly lights and how far I could see. Waiting for the elevator to go down, my best friend and I overheard the woman behind us, ask her companion how high the Eiffel Tower was. It was certainly one of the highest structures she had ever been up. My friend and I winked at each other because we knew the CN Tower in Toronto, back home, was higher. Then it occurred to me. I hadn’t been up the CN Tower since I was 4. I barely remembered being terrified riding the elevator to the top with my grandfather. But that was it. All of the sudden, I felt like a part in a movie when everything sped up and the picture became blurred. The things I was admiring during this excursion, were things I didn’t even know if we had in Canada. I never paid attention. I took it for granted that things I saw everyday in my homeland were just always … there. But were they??????
When I got home, I put on my national glasses and suddenly I saw … vast green forests and hills, rocks and sheep (and cows), not cobblestone roads but dirt roads with farms and livestock. I took my (then) fiancee (and now both my sons) up to the top of the CN Tower and witnessed twinkley lights and saw for miles. It brought tears to my eyes. The things that I thought were beautiful in a foreign land, were the very things that I couldn’t see in my own backyard. It put things very dramatically into perspective. I am so very GRATEFUL for all that I live amongst in this place we call Canada.