Sunday, February 25, 2024

Next Year is Meaford’s Sesquicentennial

Sesquicentennial, not exactly a word we use regularly, but it is a word that Meafordites will be hearing much in the months to come, as the former Town of Meaford approaches its 150th birthday.

During Monday’s council meeting, Councillor Harley Greenfield introduced a motion that will jump-start the organization of celebrations for the big anniversary, and that motion as you might expect found the full support of council.

Greenfield is the longest serving member of council, and he holds a deep passion for the history related to all parts of the municipality, including the former Town of Meaford.

As Councillor Greenfield noted in his motion, the Town of Meaford was established in 1874, just seven years after our nation’s confederation. Meaford didn’t just show up on a map one day, of course, as Greenfield shared in his motion.

Whereas, in 1840, David Miller constructed a cabin near the mouth of the Big Head River; Whereas, over the next thirty-four years, the community, which became known as Peggy’s Landing, grew in importance and population, becoming the social and economic centre of the area; Whereas, in 1874, by a Special Act of the Ontario Legislature, the urban area of seventeen hundred persons was proclaimed to be known as the Town of Meaford,” Greenfield noted in his motion.

While the population of the newly formed Town of Meaford might have been 1,700 in 1874, today more than 4,500 residents inhabit what was once the Town of Meaford. It is now one-third of an amalgamated municipality known officially today as the Municipality of Meaford, with a population of more than 11,000.

Initially, the amalgamated municipality had opted to use a new name, the Town of Georgian Highlands, however that moniker was short-lived as it caused some confusion with the existing municipalities of Georgian Bluffs and Grey Highlands. So the name of this newly formed municipality was quickly changed to the Municipality of Meaford.

As with many municipalities that were amalgamated at the time, there was some friction in the early years, and despite our elected councils working to bridge the gaps among the three former townships, there can still be some friction found today. But for most of us, the Municipality of Meaford is a place we love, a place we call home, and it’s a place that wouldn’t be what it is today without all three having come together.

Much has happened around the globe in our 150 year history, including two world wars, world-changing inventions such as the automobile, landing humans on the moon, to name just a few from a pool of millions of milestones and events.

Where this community once had a thriving manufacturing sector, those industries slowly disappeared as the development of highways allowed for quick delivery from modern industrial cities concentrated in southern Ontario. This community, like many others, had to adapt to the changing times, and these days, Meaford relies on tourism to bring the all important dollars to our local businesses.

It is certainly something to celebrate 150 years, but it’s also worth reflecting on just how young of a community we are. It can be easy to forget that, when compared to many other nations with histories reaching back thousands of years, we Canadians are inhabitants of a toddler-aged nation.

Naturally, this municipality has some flaws, as does every community, but you would be hard pressed to find a safer, more beautiful place to call home. Whether we realize it or not, our quiet lives in this quiet small Canadian municipality are the envy of much of the rest of the world, and we are fortunate indeed.

I thank Councillor Greenfield for bringing his motion forward. His passion for the history of this community is something that he frequently shares with his fellow council members and the community, and his appreciation for the importance of both preserving and sharing that history is welcomed and appreciated by many of us, whether we have lived here our entire lives or if we are new to the community.

When I moved to this municipality nearly 20 years ago, I knew nothing of its history. I was completely unaware of the friction surrounding the 2001 amalgamation. I just felt that it was a quiet, safe, small town with a beautiful waterfront, and a wealth of natural beauty that I wanted to call home. In the years since moving here, I have learned much about its history and the people that have made this community great, but I know that there is so much more to learn and appreciate.

In our busy modern lives, we can easily forget that we live in a special place, with a history worthy of exploration, reflection, and celebration. Next year however, celebrate we will, and deservedly so.

So, prepare yourself to hear the word ‘Sesquicentennial’ often in the months to come, as this community prepares to celebrate the 150th birthday of what today is known officially as the urban area of the municipality, but is still frequently referred to as the Old Town of Meaford.

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