Sunday, October 17, 2010
This weekend we ventured into Brant County with three purposes in mind. To travel country roads and view the spectacular colours of the fall leaves, to discover Sacred Heart Church located in picturesque Paris, Ontario and to dig into family history roots. All this we proposed to undertake by travelling into beautiful Paris and surroundings. We had an early start and travelled in grand style - my friend recently retrieved his much-loved 1995 Suburban truck from the paint shop and "Jane" added extra excitement to the day. Being one of the largest and strongest vehicles on the road, nothing could obscure our view.
We arrived in Paris mid-morning under clear blue skies and drove the historic downtown main street. Paris is located where the Grand River meets the Nith River. The town was named for the nearby deposits of gypsum used to make plaster of paris. We enjoyed a "fresh-air" breakfast of hot coffee and toasted bagels sitting on "Jane's" sturdy tail-gate. Does food ever taste more yummy than when eaten outdoors? Conversation flowed freely and we teased back and forth and we looked forward to the day. Our stomachs appeased, we headed to the Paris look-out - a spot along the top of a hill that overlooks the town centre, the treed and hilled mountainous terrace and the Nith River.
Next we headed off to find Sacred Heart Church. Sacred Heart Church is the oldest Catholic church we have visited on our journey together. In 1834 a vote was taken among church elders to see where to locate a Catholic Church in Brant County - Brantford or Paris? The vote was 13-12 in favour of Paris. By 1838 a wood chapel was erected dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was officially the first Catholic Church in Brant County. In 1857, construction of the present day Sacred Heart Church began and the first mass was celebrated Christmas Day. In 1880, construction was completed. Sacred Heart recently celebrated it's 150th anniversary - by far the oldest standing Catholic church we have visited. It's constructed entirely of field stone and the rock has stood the test of time. It is in remarkably fine condition and looks much as it would have done the day Christmas mass was first celebrated. Being the only Catholic church in the county, people would have travelled for many miles to attend this church. It looks solid but also cosy and welcoming at the same time and I can imagine people feeling warm and secure inside the stone walls after reaching their destination.
Unfortunately we visited on a Saturday so were unable to view the interior or attend mass. But this church is definitely worth a second visit and we hope to return another Sunday. Surely we will be in the area again as my friend has deep ties to Brant county and this was one of the reasons we visited the area today.
We often talk about being on a path or a journey on this blog. Many times we are referring to journey of discovering new churches and exploring our friendship. This weekend we travelled old roads from a families past, visited their resting places, photographed their homes and schools.
Sometimes to understand where we are going, it helps to look at the path that led us here. Maybe the answer lies where the one path joins another. There are many ways to honour a person. By taking time to look at their path it is like saying "your life mattered, we remember you, we see your contribution". By remembering and discovering, we travel their path too. And so the two paths become one.
The tracing of a soul as it wanders Mother Earth is as glimpsing as the seasons. My surname and family roots are on the list of things I would like to discover. I started out today as Autumn is set hard in Ontario and waits for Winter to relieve her of her duties. The turning of hardwood lots in the hills and valleys of Southern Ontario is a spectacle which my friend and I set out early to enjoy.
My Suburban has been in captivity for almost 2 years getting a fresh coat of paint. Pushed aside at the shop that collision work logically receives preferential treatment over rust work. My truck is all one colour, so dark green it is black and is absolutely beautiful. Being off the road for so long , the emission test was ignored and the truck's registration lapsed. There is very little future in running 2 year old fuel in any vehicle let alone one you would like to pass an emission test. Since "Jane" had a little over half a tank of fuel , that meant I had to burn over 100 litres of fuel in one weekend and having only a small block chevy to do such a feat we decided to take her on our latest outing. The windshield was cleaned in a Kitchener parking lot and then we were off and the reasons I own an old Suburban came back to me while driving Chevy's biggest wagon.
I stuck to old Ontario highways in order to see the view that the turning foliage offered and the slower pace that the single lane highways afford.We traveled down county roads from Kitchener through Ayr and into Paris. The scenes that were painted by nature's brush were ours to behold and savour being one of the last weeks of the year that these scenes will be playing out. The time of year that fall is in full bloom is one of my favourite and it is like every hardwood tree is vying for your attention and trying to out do his brethren. We stopped in Paris Ontario for a few reasons. To eat, take in the sights and visit a church that lays atop a riverbank on the East end of Paris.
Sacred Heart is a mid 19th century building constructed of fieldstone and is built well. The slate roof with it's scalloped edges and multi colour design that encompasses the steeple is truly the work of artisans. The stone work although simple has surprises of hidden detail. Numerous crosses made from off coloured stone are hidden on her outside walls. The peaked gables are adorned with stone crosses and would not have been easy for the craftsman to make. This building is nestled into a hillside on the banks of the Grand River and is celebrating her 150 th birthday. The stunted stanchions that hold her roof and clerestory up are blended in to the outside walls adding beauty to an already impressive facade. Being Saturday the church was not open we photographed the church's exterior and then headed for Brantford on oldhighway 24 south.
Coming into Mount Pleasant I could see urban sprawl and it's effect on the south of Brantford. We have the same effect in my city but this valley that is being filled up with cookie cutter houses is from my childhood and is where my dad grew up. He adored this valley and knew it's landscape well having walked and rode his bike here as a child and drove it in his car regularly. I think it would sadden him to see what a developer's vision realized looks like. This area of Brantford has been important in my family's roots since the 1800's and the reason for our journey today. Turning south we drove the old side roads, some of which have not been hampered by sprawl and the rolling landscape brought us to our destination.
We stopped and photographed the elementary school that my father and his siblings attended as children and attended the rear yard of the school ground to look at the river valley below. The autumn leaves lent to this scene and feeling good about the world and our place in it we drove across the road to Farringdon Hill Cemetery where quite a few of my ancestors are interned. My surname has quite a story and is unfolding before us . The tireless efforts of my co author of this blog in the researching of my ancestral roots is the main reason for the fantastic pace thus far. Visiting gravesides we either confirmed or corrected our information and made discoveries along the way. Taking in the solitude of our surroundings we quietly wished the departed well and then made our way into West Brantford to more research. Photographing houses and churches and even a Carnegie Library the day rolled away and before we knew it was time to head home.
Along our way we managed to fill our history pages , burn fuel in an old Chevy wagon , enjoy the vista offered up by Mother Earth and best of all spend quality time with a friend. Jane effortlessly brought us home through Galt and Blair and made us feel richer for having made this journey. I have said it before and it still rings true. "At the end of the day, all that matters is friends and family" ...so get out there and drag someone along for the ride, go solo if so inclined but enjoy it . Autumn's Bloom is out waiting for you to discover.
Monday am Jane set a new personal best on the E test dyno scoring near perfect . Time well spent.
Posted by Lorne/Maureen at 8:42 PM