Today’s post comes from Laura McClintock, Senior Naturalist at Sibbald Point Provincial Park.
Moving to an unfamiliar area can be a daunting process.
Think about the last time you moved. What family treasures did you take? What made the move easy or challenging?
In this blog, we go back almost 200 years to the movement that gave its name to Sibbald Point Provincial Park.
A family of settlers
Sibbald Point is named after the Sibbald family, who were the last owners of the land before the formation of the park in 1957.
The Sibbalds owned the property between 1835 and 1951, and the memory of their stay here lives on at Eildon Hall Museum, where part of the Sibbald family collection is on display.
From oil paintings and books to porcelain and silver, the Sibbald collection is packed with objects. Each one comes with its own memorable story.
But first, who were the Sibbalds?
Susan Mein Sibbald (1783-1866) was the daughter of Dr. Thomas Mein, a Royal Navy surgeon. She grew up in England and summered near Melrose, Scotland, at the family’s summer estate, the original and eponymous Eildon Hall of what would later become the family’s North American home.
While in Scotland, Susan met her husband, Colonel William Sibbald. They married in 1807 and together they had eleven children: nine sons and two daughters.
Beginning with Susan, Eildon Hall at Sibbald Point would go on to be the home of many generations of the Sibbald family.
Sibbald Point Eildon Hall
A trip to Upper Canada
In the 1830s, at the suggestion of Upper Canada Lieutenant-Governor and friend John Colborne, the Sibbalds made the decision to move to North America.
Before moving, Susan sent two of her children to learn how to farm in Orillia.
The news that the children were living in a tavern traveled to Scotland, which worried Susan. She was a conservative woman and she expected her children to live in a respectable place.
Susan, concerned about her reputation, crossed the Atlantic to evaluate her living conditions for herself.
The tavern turned out to be a pleasant inn.
Satisfied with her accommodations, Susan took a ferry across Lake Simcoe to explore the area. On the south shore of Lake Simcoe, she came across an estate known as Penrains, owned by Major William Kingdom Rains.
The farm consisted of 500 acres of land and a small log cabin. Susan’s arrival was timely, as Major Rains was looking to sell her property to move and start a settlement on St. Joseph’s Island, near Sault Ste. Marie. Maria.
Susan bought the small log cabin and the land, which would eventually become Eildon Hall and Sibbald Point.
Susan returned to Scotland to share the good news with her husband, but upon her return she was greeted with the news of her husband’s death.
Returning to Lake Simcoe in 1836, he decided to begin a new chapter in his life.
Susan brought with her two boatloads of belongings, including items that are still on display at Eildon Hall today!
a family memory
While Susan brought most of the belongings with her, including oil paintings and furniture, over time other family members brought objects that are also important to Sibbald’s story.
One possession that still sits on the library’s walnut bookshelf is Sibbald’s stand clock.
Older styles of stand clocks were mounted on the wall (with a stand), with a pendulum to mark time. Newer bracket clocks, like this one, were spring-loaded and not mounted.
This clock was made by James Cowan, a famous Scottish clockmaker in the mid-18th century. Having the handle on the top of the clock allowed it to be moved from room to room.
The watch belonged to William Sibbald, Susan Sibbald’s late husband. She brought this watch in 1836 to remember her husband, as it was her favorite watch of hers.
Susan lived the rest of her life as a widow and independent woman.
He maintained an active social life, traveling regularly to Toronto and visiting notable friends such as Bishop John Strachan and Sir John Beverley Robinson.
The watch allowed him to preserve his memories as he adjusted to his new life in Upper Canada.
Holding on to religious values
As well as building Eildon Hall on the foundations of Penrains, Susan Sibbald was instrumental in the construction of St. George’s Anglican Church, located on the outskirts of the current park.
Susan was a devout Anglican and her religion was a guiding force in her life. Due to her social position and financial situation, she was able to donate land and funds for the establishment of an Anglican church.
Arriving in an unknown place, religion allowed the Sibbalds to maintain their values in the developing community.
Susan’s values were shared with the family. Her relationship with St. George’s continued for many decades.
Susan’s sons, Captain Thomas, Dr Frank and Hugh, contributed funds towards the rebuilding of the church in the 1870s as a memorial to their mother.
This harmonium, a small pump organ, belonged to Susan’s granddaughter, Susan Sibbald Everest.
It was built in England in the 1860s and was a popular instrument at the time. It was preferred because of its small size and the handles on the sides that allowed it to be portable.
Susan Sibbald Everest was married to the Reverend George Everest, the minister of St. George’s.
This harmonium served as a central part of religious services in the hall, the church and its surroundings. Not to mention the entertainment!
Artifacts as a window to the past
Looking at some artifacts only scratches the surface of Sibbald’s story, which spans many generations of travel, military service, culture and change.
During their stay at Lake Simcoe, the Sibbalds stayed true to their roots and their values of tradition and refinement.
As we journey through life, we can reflect on the possessions we cherish and the stories they tell.
The more stories we share, the richer our lives become as our stories shape the future.