The scrapbooks index
It was time to start a new assignment at the Bruce County Archives in Southampton. Ever since I [Robin Hilborn] had started volunteering at the Archives in 2005 I had catalogued books, indexed the collections of Schmalz and Weichel, and entered photo descriptions into a database, among other tasks.
But when I sat down at my usual computer to start indexing a pile of scrapbooksit was August 2014I had no idea that I would find a treasure trove of unpublished Bruce County history.
The stack of scrapbooks had been compiled by Bruce Krug (1919-2013), one for each township, except Elderslie (where he lived), which had six volumes. For the most part they contained page after page of newspaper clippings which referred to events in Bruce County history.
Up first, Albemarle. I started typing a summary: "Page 11904, Victoria Daily Times. Klondike. Gold rush. David Ferguson of Grand Bend, Huron Co.; body found; 42 years old." (The Klondike was one of Krug's interests.) And so it wentclippings of articles, obituaries, poemsuntil page 72, where instead of a clipping there was a manuscript of four pages in the careful handwriting I would come to recognize as Bruce Krug's. He had titled it "Visit with Gordon & Olive Hepburn at Southampton, May 13, 1963". (I later learned that they were the Hepburns of Hope Bay, who kept the post office for over 40 years.)
Gordon Hepburn was born about 1903 and had plenty of memories of life on the peninsula. Bruce Krug wrote them downthe sawmill at Gillies Lake, Hayward's mattress factory in his Pike Bay barn, logs dumped over the cliff at Hope Bay, the Armenian peddler who walked everywhere, and the big 1912 forest fire which burned everything down to bare rock (told in "A burned-out peninsula", in Part Two of The Bruce.)
The detail in the account of this one visit was astounding, and it wasn't the only one. By the time I had finished indexing the Krug scrapbooks in July 2015 the sheer volume of Bruce Krug's output was evident. From 1948 to 1965 he had conducted 176 interviews in every township of Bruce County601 manuscript pages.
The oldest person Krug spoke to, Louis Sutter of Pike Bay, was born in 1854 and was 99 when Krug interviewed him. Only one year younger was carpenter George Saunders Webb, born in 1855. At 100 years old he was Port Elgin's oldest resident when Krug visited him. Webb died two months later, but not before Bruce Krug had recorded his invaluable observations on the start of a cheese factory.
At the start of the 20th century Norman Robertson had used the same procedure. In writing his 1906 book The History of the County of Bruce Robertson interviewed "scores of old settlers" over an eight-year period, "to gather from their lips the story of the pioneer days", but there is no trace of those encounters beyond what is printed in the book.
Bruce Krug, on the other hand, wrote down everything he heard, and preserved his notes, but did not create a book. We know that he intended to write a history of Bruce County. He wrote, "I had hoped to have all the facts concerning the subject before I proceeded to write", which implied, unfortunately, that he could never start the definitive history of the county. Though he didn't get to write his book, Bruce Krug's notes, in the Bruce County Archives, remain a precious window on the past.
Transcribing the interviews
I told archivist Ann-Marie Collins what I had found in the Krug scrapbooks. We talked about how to make the interviews of 176 Bruce County people accessible to the public, perhaps by publishing them. First, they would need to be transcribed. I proposed to do so and by 2016 I was ready to start. Working part time it took from January to April to type the 205,000 words in the interviews. It was a daunting task but the result was electronically-searchable documents.
A typical interview report starts with the weather and names his travelling companion: "July 29, 1959. This afternoon, the weather was hot and humid and threatening rain, but Harold Krug and I decided to take a trip to Cape Croker and call on some of the Indians there."
Bruce had favourite topics. He would ask about shipwrecks, passenger pigeons, largest trout caught, Indian artifacts, tree species, meteorites, the 1913 storm, bush fires and the murder of Stephen Neubecker. Few signs of the past escaped his questioning: old cabins, houses, barns, sawmills and grist mills.
In long-abandoned cemeteries Bruce Krug cleared away the growth and recorded the names on the stones. He jogged memories, reminding Mr. Ferguson of Brant township of the skeleton he had found on his farm, but had "forgotten all about it".
In short, here is the raw material for a peoples' history of Bruce Countynot by historians but by the people who lived it. And for those looking for inspiration for a novel there are plenty of true-life stories.
Researchers will find a trove of material in the Bruce Krug manuscripts. He was a careful note-taker, repeating names so there would be no doubt to whom the speaker is referring, and leaving blanks where he was missing information. His informants were reliable: he interviewed some people multiple times over the years and their recollections stayed consistent. He would ask three or four people about the same subject and each would corroborate the other.
Naturalists can read about changes in the course of the Saugeen River; water levels at Baie du Dore; resurgence of orange and white lilies; banding American Bitterns; the nesting patterns of the passenger pigeon; and the recovery of vegetation after a bush fire. True to his roots in the furniture-making industry, Bruce recorded the distribution of tree species; stands of timber on given lots; and the locations of mature trees.
For the archaeologist, Bruce Krug's precision in concession and lot numbers permit locating structures which no longer exist. He gives locations for Indian relics and shipwrecks on the shoreline; and describes the cross-peninsula portage through Boat Lake.
Krug interviews are a genealogist's dream. Those tracing European roots will find accounts of Atlantic crossings, stops on the way to Bruce County and descendants of the earliest settlers.
Linguists interested in regional expressions will find phrases such as "light skiff of snow", "water with a scum of ice on it" and "you will be ate up with bears and wolves".
Historians of architecture and industry may read about an old church which became a driving shed; development of cottages over time; barn construction; mattresses made of hay or beaver grass; training a yoke of oxen to skid logs; and methods of loading ties and tanning bark aboard schooners.
The Krug scrapbook indices are at www.brucemuseum.ca/collections-research/archives-and-research/search-our-archives, under Local History Bruce Krug Local History Scrapbooks. The Krug interview transcriptions are available at the Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre.
The researcher should not overlook another resource: the diaries. Bruce Krug was an ardent historianhe was the first president of the reorganized Bruce County Historical Society, in 1957and he made diary entries every day of his life, starting when he was 11.
In 2016 I inventoried the diaries and found that there were 170, most of 200 pages, running from 1930 to 2013 (although the ones for 1942 through 1948 are missing.) They were donated to the Bruce County Archives in 2014.
What is in them? The weather. His activities throughout the day. Who he visited and what they discussed. What he saw in his jaunts through the Bruce County countryside, especially the birds. Here is a list of every bird he saw on Thursday at Kinghurst. Here is a description of the people crowded into the Al Maguire auction on Friday in Southamptonand every "antique" Al was peddling that night. A few pages later, a car trip to Toronto.
As co-owner of the Krug Furniture factory in Chesley, Bruce Krug could afford to indulge his passions. A succession of new automobiles took him everywhere. He might spend a few morning hours at the factory, but the lure of nature and human stories (and auctions) was irresistible, so he filled his days with antique hunting, bird watching and interviewing the old residents of the county. Evenings were for diarizing.
The close of this story was written in 2013. The Owen Sound Sun Times wrote on May 24, "The last surviving member of the once prominent Krug Bros. furniture manufacturing family in Chesley has died. Bruce Arthur Krug was 94 years old. Krug died in his sleep Tuesday at Elgin Abbey in Chesley, where he had been a resident since February 2006. Bruce, and his older brother, Howard, who died in 1997, were the second generation of Krug men to operate the Krug Bros. furniture manufacturing business in Chesley over a period of 101 years from 1886 to 1987."
Krug family members were well-known philanthropists, active in community affairs and service.
Bruce's brother Wilfred bought the Liebach Heinmiller store in Chesley for $8,000 and donated it to the town for a library. When he died in 1971 Wilfred left $150,000 to the Bruce County Museum. It largely paid for the museum's Krug Wing, which opened June 27, 1976
Bruce Krug made generous donations over the years, many of them anonymous. He gave $50,000 in 1990 to build a new archive annex to the Bruce County Museum building and paid for many of the mobile storage units in the archives. In 2011 he donated $100,000 to the Chesley Medical Clinic Expansion Project.
In conservation and education Bruce and Howard Krug made bequests to Bruce Peninsula National Park, the Bruce Trail, the Chesley Heritage Trail, and set up an endowment fund for the outdoor education centre on the Bruce Peninsula, along with funds for new nature reserves in Grey County and the Krug Memorial Park in Chesley, opened in 2017.
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