County Archivist Liz describes one of our latest, exciting projects at the Oxford County Archives: The digitization of a massive collection of photographic negatives from the Woodstock Sentinel-Review newspaper.
By Liz Dommasch, County Archivist
A number of years ago, we received a very large donation of Woodstock Sentinel-Review negatives ranging from the late 1940s up until the 1990s. Unfortunately, for many years this collection sat, unprocessed, in our offsite storage location… that is until COVID struck and Archives staff had to find projects that could be completed from home, and in the archives when it was safe to do so.
Beginning in 2020, I began the slow and sometimes painstaking process of processing and digitizing these negatives. As there are well over hundreds of thousands of negatives crammed into boxes, binders, and even a filing cabinet, it was a daunting project to start. Even more daunting was the fact that many of the negative boxes did not provide a date and there was no descriptive information to determine who was in the photograph and where it was taken. In some cases, I was able to recognize a location or event which helped narrow down the date the photograph was published in the paper, while other times I had to pay close attention to items in the photographs which would shed some light on when the photograph was taken (calendars on walls were a godsend!). In other instances, we relied on help from other local museums and heritage groups, as well as from the public through our Instagram and the County’s Facebook page. Once I was able to determine one photograph in a box, I could then search the Woodstock Sentinel-Review newspapers, which the Archives has on microfilm, for further information on each image.
With that said, it’s been a very slow process with thousands upon thousands more negatives to be processed, scanned, and identified. I’m hoping as things return to normal, and volunteers and students can return to the Archives, we will have further assistance with this project – whether it’s helping with the processing of the negatives into acid-free envelopes and boxes; digitizing each image; and/or searching the newspapers to help provide a date and further information about each photograph. If anyone is interested in assisting with this project (and we are happy to provide students with volunteer hours), please contact the archives for further information: email@example.com.
The images I have arranged and digitized so far are fantastic and provide a rich history of not only Woodstock but communities across the County capturing events in places such as Tavistock, Norwich, and Tillsonburg. Please keep an eye out on our social media platforms for images from this collection! In the meantime, please enjoy some of my favourite photographs I’ve discovered so far.
"Monster Parade" participants on tricycles and bicycles as part of the Tavistock Centenary Celebrations. – 2 August 1948. [COA123 #1-23]
A toddler holding suitcase with a sign on it that reads “1949” – before November 1949. [COA123 #-144]
3-year-old, Dennis Magashazi, of Princeton, feeding baby deer with a bottle – before May 1950. [COA123 #4-267]
A young child seated in a boat ride, in front of a Merry-go-round and strong man game – before July 1950. [COA123 #6-208]
Staff standing behind the counter at the Sportsman’s Grill - before January 1951. [COA123 #7-181]
Group of children playing in snow around a hydro pole - before December 1950. [COA123 #7-85]
Archives Technician Megan discusses the significant role local community members have in identifying the archive's photograph collection.
By Megan Lockhart, Archives Technician
Did you know? Over half of the Oxford County Archives’ photo collection is unidentified. We often receive donations of photographs that arrive with other family records or were saved from being thrown away. Many of the photographs we receive arrive with no or little information related to who is in the photo, where the photo was taken, when it was taken, why it was taken, etc. We will accept photos that can be traced to Oxford County in some way, in hopes that we will be able to find out more information on the photograph in the future.
There are a few ways we can do this. Comparing photos to others we have in our collections, we may spot a familiar face or location that leads us to identify who is in the photo or where it was taken. Research the photographer, we can identify an approximate date for a photograph based on when a photographer was active, if it is a studio portrait, for example. Determine a date based on clues in the photo – what buildings are standing, what people are wearing, if there are visible hydro lines, etc. Sometimes researching the background information on the family who owned the photos or the history of the other archival records that came with the photo can provide more clues.
However, one of the best resources for identification is the local community. There are so many community members who have lived in the Oxford County region for many years, sometimes their whole lives. We have often relied on the knowledge of local residents, or previous residents, to help us identify information about a photo. We regularly share unidentified photos on social media for “Mystery Monday” posts. We have been so grateful to community members who have identified these photos for us, and it happens more often than not! We spend time verifying the information provided to us through social media, but the information we receive from the community has a high degree of accuracy (Oxford County residents really know their stuff!). By helping us identify photos, you’re not only helping us ensure our records and descriptions are up to date, but also helping us preserve important local history for future generations.
So, why is identifying photographs so important? An identified photo innately has more value than an unidentified one. While we like to believe that all photographs are important, the stories that are attached to the photos are just as important – if not more, as they provide us with context as archivists and historians. Without context, many photos remain in storage, rarely accessed, as they contain little information that can be used by researchers or for programming like exhibits – of course, there are some exceptions to this depending on the photo. This is why it’s so important to include descriptive notes with family photos, the who, what, where, when, and why.
An example of a recent community identification success story is the identification of Hugh Chong, former owner of the Food Rite Restaurant in Woodstock, Ontario. We shared the photo below on Facebook and Instagram, and it didn’t take very long for Woodstock residents to confirm that the man in the photo was Hugh (better known as Huey) Chong. Once we knew who he was, we then began crafting a biography for Mr. Chong. We were told by community members that Mr. Chong was well-loved and known by many residents. The Food Rite Restaurant was also well-loved by the community. Delving into our records, we were able to find out more about Mr. Chong and his family’s restaurant, including that Huey was big on sports in high school – he was part of the basketball team at Woodstock Collegiate Institute and a member of the boys’ athletic association. We also discovered that he was a veteran of the Second World War, and was enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force during his service. We learned interesting facts about the restaurant; for example, the restaurant was an early advocate for the “farm-to-table” movement in the 1970s (perhaps even earlier), which has gained massive popularity again in the past decade. Many of the ingredients used by the Food Rite Restaurant were locally grown on the family farm, run by Fay Ham Chong. Now, thanks to the help of the local community, we have a wealth of information on Hugh Chong and the Chong family to coincide with this photo.
Check out our Instagram page for more unidentified photos, or the Oxford County Facebook page. Help us put names and stories to the faces in our photo collection!
Last year, we received a donation of records from Fanshawe Pioneer Village which included the following poem:
On the Late Collision at Ingersoll
March the 20th 1887
Composed by Joseph Fenton Johnson, late of Hamilton, Ont., and copied from original March 25th, 1887.
"Approaching noon on Sunday, there was behind its time,
A train known as a (Limited) along the Grand Trunk Line;
Five cars (including Baggage) composed this speedy train,
Being an hour behind its time, it would those moments gain.
But Ingersoll could not be passed – an Express it had to meet;
As the latter had not as yet left its (Dorchester) retreat;
So to a siding it was switched, while the other line was clear,
And to a casual onlooker – one had not much to fear.
"Now,” seven hundred and fifty two came up like a “spectral vision,”
When lo! The brakes refused to act – there was a sad collision;
The switchman (as it be inspiration) turned it from the main,
‘Twas then the (Limited Express) leaped on to the other train.
No. 177 (a freight) was steering towards the east
When seven hundred and fifty two dashed in like a furious beast,
And rising like a pinnacle, it mounted the other steed,
So by this sudden act at once lessened its frightful speed.
An artist (J.L. Brouse* by name) came promptly to the scene
He photographed the iron horses in a style that was serene.
“Now” it any wish a copy, just to his Studio stroll,
You’ll find his place of business in the town of Ingersoll.
“Twas after two in the afternoon before relief did come,
And by four o’clock the special train conveyed the travelers home;
An auxiliary of the London staff – as good as you find
Was on the spot to clear the track, and were not far behind.
Conductor Turnbull at his post, and the most serious hurt,
Saw well the cause, he quickly jumped, and fell near a culvert;
With blackened eye and cheek much torn, was ready to assist,
Nor did he try to shirk his task, or his duty to resist.
The driver and the fireman leaped from their train at rick,
“Death” would have been inevitable had the offered to desist;
As the cab and its approaches were pretty well stove in,
So prudence conquered duty to make their no [?].
In all there [?] no lives were lost;
As two locomotives with nine box cars were smashed at a fearful cost;
A concussion so severe – ‘one wonders the affair”
Did not cost one single life, as you are well aware.
A crowd of persons gather round to view the sight serene,
There were all who could be mustered, from the Orange to the Green;
As some eight thousand persons came to the scene of the wreck,
And wilo young lads on box cars appeared as though on deck.
Almost all of Ingersoll turned out in the afternoon,
As such a smash was seldom known around our little town;
But the best impression most could have – “no lives were sacrificed,”
Though the motive power was at once smashed up that was so highly
The poem tells the tale of a train collision that happened at the Grand Trunk Railway station in Ingersoll on March 20, 1887. On that fateful day, the No. 53 St. Louis Express tried to break when coming into town. However, the brakes refused to work and the train headed straight towards the No. 56 train that was waiting on the main line for the Express train to pass. The switchman on duty saw what was about to occur and had “the great presence of mind seeing the state of affairs” to turn the switch sending the Express into a freight train that was parking on the siding instead.
Luckily, all the enginemen (George Phipps, John Conveney, Alf Crouch, and Mr. Coswell) were able to jump the train and escape without injury, though Conductor John Turnbull received a number of bruises and cuts when at the last minute he jumped from the baggage car platform moments before it was smashed into fragments.
Both engines, two baggage cars, a smoking car, and nine freight cars were more or less wrecked. Amazingly, the passengers in the Pullman coaches experienced “only an easy lurch” and were unaware that a collision had taken place until they were told.
Following the crash, a large crowd from the town, Woodstock, and elsewhere, were said to have visited the scene of the accident to view the collision. A fresh engine was sent out from London and in little over an hour the scene was cleared and the No. 53 was booming westward again “as if nothing had happened.”
*Note: J.L. Brouse, was an Ingersoll photographer, who operated his business from 1885 to 1887.
Author and family history researcher Alayne Fulton Kleser delves into the family mystery surrounding the Zurbriggs' connection to the naming of Punkeydoodle's Corners in part two of her article.
By Alayne Fulton Kleser, author
Returning to Punkeydoodle’s Corner, the truth behind the stories is not at all clearcut. While they all agree upon the basic facts regarding the relationships between the Zurbriggs and the Zurbuchens, as well as on Samuel H’s varied occupations, each story also introduces different facets.
John Zurbrigg, for example, was described by Carrie as her mother’s first husband who died around 1860. She also noted that the couple had one son, Samuel H. Zurbrigg, who was born in 1853 and worked as a blacksmith. There were two branches of Zurbrigg’s that settled in the vicinity with four John’s between them, none of whom fit this description (a simplified tree is located at the end of this article). The first was the son of Gilgian Sr. and Elsbeth (Schmid) Zurbrigg. He was born in Switzerland in 1813 and married Susanna Buschlen just prior to the family’s departure for Upper Canada. He was killed after being hit by a train in 1868. The couple did have a son named Samuel, but he was a secretary/treasurer for The South Easthope Farmers' Mutual Fire Insurance Co., not a blacksmith.
Gilgian Sr. also had two grandsons named John. However, being born in 1837 and 1843 respectively, it is unlikely that either was the father of Samuel H. Both men also married women with the first name of Mary and lived far past 1860.
John and Lydia Zurbrigg
From the second branch, which arrived in North America around 1847, came the son of Anthony and Magdalena (Trachsel) Zurbrigg. He was born in 1836 and married Lydia Good in 1867. He died in 1922 and, like the first John, had a son of his own by the name of Samuel Good Zurbrigg, who owned a successful bakery in Ingersoll.
I turned next to the land records and found that the first Zurbrigg owner at Punkeydoodle’s Corner was, in fact, Gilgian Sr. Gilgian, his second wife (also Elsbeth), and their combined family arrived in New York in 1835 and made their way to Upper Canada. They eventually settled in Waterloo and Perth Counties, where Gilgian purchased three acres at Block A, Concession 3, Lot 29 in 1852.
According to the probate of his will, Gilgian died on April 1st, 1860, at the age of 74. The tax assessment records also confirm that Gilgian owned the land until 1859, and that John Zurbuchen maintained the property as of 1861. I have been unable to find any mention of a John Zurbrigg ever having owned this or any neighbouring property.
1857 Tax Assessment of Wimot Township
Moving on to Mrs. Helmer (the woman Carrie told us called John a “Punkeydoodle”), she appears to have been Mary Helmer the daughter of Colonel Anthony Van Egmond, a member of the prestigious Canada Company responsible for bringing settlers into the area. Mary’s husband, Andrew, owned a tavern which was described by the Lizar sisters as a “long, low log cabin, some 18 by 24 feet, with a lean-to for a kitchen.” Although the location of this tavern corresponds with Carrie’s story, being “up the road towards New Hamburg”, they were by no means the closest neighbour. Mrs. Helmer passed away in 1861, so if we are to believe Carrie’s story, the death date of John/Gilgian and Mrs. Helmer suggests that the name of Punkeydoodle’s Corner dates prior to 1860-1861.
According to Konrad Stock’s version of the story, John Zurbuchen was a German Tavernkeeper. In reality, he was a Swiss immigrant from Habkern, Switzerland, who married Elizabeth Hartung in 1860. At the time of the taking of the 1861 census, Samuel H. Zurbrigg was living with the couple. According to Carrie, with the marriage of John and Elizabeth, Zurbuchen inherited the land of John Zurbrigg, and this is where the tavern was opened. Looking to the tax assessment records, the tavern was relatively short-lived, running from approximately 1867 to 1873. So, if we believe this story, the name Punkeydoodle would have first appeared during this time.
1861 Census of Wilmot Township
The records all seem to confirm that Samuel H. Zurbrigg was born in 1853 and that he was raised by John and Elizabeth Zurbuchen. Shortly after his marriage to Margaret Wettlaufer in 1875, Sam moved for a time to Concession 3, Lot 11, South Easthope living next to the sons of John and Susanna Zurbrigg. In 1882, he sold the property and moved back onto the lands owned by Zurbuchen, eventually purchasing ½ an acre. Throughout his life, he worked as a blacksmith, operated a chopping mill, and ran a cider press.
Unfortunately, the records are not consistent in the naming of his parents. It is possible, however, that there is a clue in his middle initial. In the early years of Upper Canada, it was common for an individual to take as a middle initial, the maiden name of their mother to help differentiate themselves from others with the same name in the area (of which we know there were at least two). Samuel H’s marriage license lists his parents as Killian and Elizabeth Zurbrigg – was his mother Gilgian’s second wife, Elizabeth Hirschi? Or, more likely given the difference in age, was Elizabeth Hartung a much younger third wife to Gilgian, and mother to Samuel H.? While there is no direct proof, there is certainly circumstantial evidence supporting this theory. Not only does the 1861 census show that Samuel H. is living with the couple, but it also notes the death of a 74-year-old in the house the year before – the exact age of Gilgian when he died in 1860. It is also interesting to note that Elizabeth married John Zurbuchen just three months after Gilgian’s death: did the Lutheran community arrange for the quick marriage to ensure that she and her young son were cared for?
Riverside Cemetery, New Hamburg
Moving on to the pumpkin theory, it is possible that there might be some truth behind the addition of pumpkin to apple butter. Clayton was the grandson of Christian Merner and Elizabeth Zurbrigg. His grandparents had a farm just to the north of Zurbuchen and their children went to the same school section as Samuel H. In fact, both Christian and his brother, Jacob, gave a mortgage to Samuel H. and Gilgian Sr. appointed his “friend Jacob Merner” to be the executor of his will –the families were obviously well acquainted. Did Clayton’s mother pass down stories of the Zurbrigg’s of Punkeydoodle’s Corners to her only son?
Map courtesy of Google Maps
In the book "Pen Pictures of Early Pioneer Life in Upper Canada By a "Canuck”, written in 1905, the author wrote "Among people who had no orchards it was customary to make pumpkin sauce. The juice obtained was put into a kettle over the fire, sliced pumpkins, and sometimes sliced apples, being added". When Gilgian Sr. purchased the small parcel of land in 1852, is it possible that he had no orchard? Perhaps it was not greed that caused pumpkin to be added, but rather a lack of other resources.
On the other hand, it’s possible that the term Punkeydoddle had nothing to do with pumpkins at all. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the term “Punky” refers to a person who cheats or deceives. The term “doodle”, on the other hand, was used as a verb in the sense “make a fool of or cheat”. This would suggest that the term “Punkeydoodle” was very much a derogatory term, inferring that the person in question was a cheat or produced items of poor condition. Is it possible that a member of the family upset a neighbour who took to calling him a “Punkeydoodle” to discredit him?
And yet, the lands surrounding Samuel H’s also came to be known as Zurbrigg’s Corners. As the Lizar sisters noted, the word “Corners,” came into use where “farms met a blacksmith’s shop… it became the nucleus of a village, the latter took its name from the man most prominent of the…residents”. While Gilgian did not have the time to establish himself in such a manner, we know that Samuel H. was a blacksmith, as well as operating a chopping mill and cider press. Online digitized references to Zurbrigg’s Corners dating back to 1913, speak to the importance of Samuel H. within the community.
Whatever the case, we do know that the extended Zurbrigg/Zurbuchen family did not like the name “Punkeydoodle”. Not only do we have Ernie’s tale of Samuel H. storming into the local newspaper office, but all the Zurbrigg and Zurbuchen obituaries of the area, right up until the 1950s, mention Zurbrigg’s Corner, while the neighbours all mention the name of Punkeydoodle.
It seems, therefore, that Carrie’s interview in 1938 may have been a concession that the name of Punkeydoodle won out, but that she was hoping to ensure the name of Zurbrigg somehow remained attached to the hamlet in honour of her half-brother, while at the same time protecting his good name.
In the end, more research must be done to try and determine exactly how far back the name goes.
At this point, all we can say for certain is that there does not appear to have been a John Zurbrigg who died in 1860 and that, as with most things, the passage of time has altered people’s memories of what happened. That being said, we have confirmed that Punkeydoodle’s Corner was also once known as Zurbrigg’s Corner and that the line of Samuel H. Zurbrigg is undeniably linked with the history of this hamlet.
Visit author Alayne Fulton Kleser's website for more information on the history of the Zurbrigg family at: zurbrigg.webs.com.
Author and family history researcher Alayne Fulton Kleser delves into the family mystery surrounding the Zurbriggs' connection to the naming of Punkeydoodle's Corners.
Several years ago, Ken Zurbrigg made a sign drawing our family into the Punkeydoodle story. As the years passed, I wondered about the accuracy of the sign - in all my years of research, I had never come across anything suggesting that our family was descended from the John Zurbrigg mentioned in the stories, but if it wasn’t our John – who was it? When I came across a newspaper article dating back to 1938, I decided to learn more.
Located at the intersection of the counties of Oxford, Perth, and Waterloo, Punkeydoodle’s Corner is an unincorporated hamlet known today for its unusual name and the resulting sign theft. At the turn of the century, however, it was a thriving community of approximately one hundred families. A “stop on the old stage route along… the Huron Road,” it boasted amenities such as a hotel, blacksmith shop, sawmill, cider mill, and a livery stable.
In January of 1952, the story of the hamlet’s name spread from Vancouver to Miami after a mumps epidemic hit the news. The Edmonton Journal reported that the local school children were “feeling punk at Punkeydoodles Corners” with “more than 15” diagnosed with the mumps and that “Teacher Delford Zehr’s classes” had been “curtailed”.
Only five years later, the Ottawa Journal noted that Punkeydoodle’s Corner had become “a ghost town,” having little to offer. It had “withered” when the railway bypassed the area, replacing the stage, and died “when the car crowded the buggy off the old Huron Road.” Only memories of the once-bustling community remained – memories and a unique name whose origins had been lost in the mists of time.
Over the years, different variations of the name have surfaced, and it was only after a “comprehensive survey” of the hamlet’s population (then 15) was completed during the Canada Day celebrations in 1982 that the name was fixed in history; the community declared it “Punkeydoodle’s Corner”. But where did the name originate?
The Stories Behind the Name
The oldest theory behind the name that I have discovered was shared by Caroline Burchatzi during an interview with the Waterloo Chronicle in 1938. This is the story that sent me down my rabbit hole. As Carrie told it, her mother, Elizabeth, was married twice. Her first husband, John Zurbrigg, was an early settler who grew pumpkins. Her second husband, John Zurbuchen, was Carrie’s father.
Carrie with a portrait of her mother, courtesy of the Kitchener Public Library
According to Carrie, the nearest settlers were the Hellmers, who lived up the road towards New Hamburg. Unfortunately, whenever John Zurbrigg met up with Mrs. Hellmer, it ended up in an argument. One day, during a disagreement, an overly excited Mrs. Hellmer pointed her finger at Mr. Zurbrigg and exclaimed “Why, you Punkeydoodle, you!” The tale quickly spread amongst the settlers and they forever after called him “Punkeydoodle” and his land, “Punkeydoodle’s Corners.”
The next story I tracked down was told to Fred Stock by his grandfather, Konrad. According to Fred, his grandfather settled a few miles south of the corner, on the west ½ of lot 31, Concession 16 in East Zorra Township. Conrad’s version of the story puts John Zurbuchen as the owner of a tavern located at Block A, Concession 1, Lot 29 in Wilmot Township.
Konrad Stock, courtesy of descendant Sharon Weitzel
An article put out by The Waterloo Historical Society in 1983 suggested that group singing by customers was customary with small local inns being one of the few settings available for social gatherings outside of church. If those gathered did not start singing on their own, the innkeeper made it a point to get things started (after all, singing made men thirsty). Stock suggested that, as a native of Germany, when Zurbuchen sang the words to “Yankee Doodle,” they were heard as “Punkeydoodle” and so, in this story, it is John Zurbuchen who came to be known as Punkeydoodle.
A third story was written down by Willis Weicker during the Canada Day celebrations in 1982. Willis tells us that there was a frame hotel owned and operated by Zurbuchen on the northwest corner of the hamlet and that on the southwest corner a young man named Zurbrigg ran a chopping mill, blacksmith shop, sawmill, and a cider mill. Zurbrigg’s mother was married to Zurbuchen, a fat and jolly man who used to sing “when I was young and had no sense, I bought a fiddle for 15 cents. And all the tunes that I could play was “Yankey Doole nix fer schay.” Now, being that he was very fat, he got the name Punkey and as he was very jolly, he got the name Punkey Doodle.
The final story comes from Ernie Ritz, former mayor of New Hamburg and avid local historian. Ernie’s uncle, Lorne, ran the newspaper in New Hamburg for many years. According to Ernie, Samuel H. Zurbrigg owned a cider mill which was located on the southwest corner of the hamlet. At one point, Sam stormed into the newspaper office, fuming, “I forbid you to use that name Punkeydoodle in your paper!” It is obvious that he did not like the name at all!
A co-worker of Ernie’s by the name of Clayton Ingold once suggested a possible reason for Sam’s dislike of the name. He pointed out that pumpkin was sometimes added to help with the texture of apple butter. In some cases, however, too much pumpkin was added, raising questions as to whether it was being done on purpose to increase profit. Ernie wonders if this is where the pumpkin connection began.
And so we are left with four stories behind the naming – but where does the truth lie? To discover that, we will look next time into the people behind the stories!
Visit author Alayne Fulton Kleser's website for more information on the history of the Zurbrigg family at: zurbrigg.webs.com.
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