The article following is provided by that wonderful publication, the “Puslinch Pioneer”, which for over thirty years has been dedicated to coverage of Puslinch Township news and history, and yes, most amazingly, is produced entirely by volunteers as a community service.  It is published ten times per year.  To assist with production costs, annual subscriptions of $25.00 are gratefully welcomed.  Please forward subscription requests, with remittances made payable to the “Puslinch Pioneer”, to the Puslinch Pioneer, R.R. #3, Guelph, Ontario, N1H 6H9.



Puslinch Libraries in Puslinch Past


(from the Puslinch Pioneer, v. 17, issue 8, April 1993.)


The analysis of a register of books borrowed from School Section #6 Public Library, Crieff, June 10th to December 20th, 1867, casts an in­teresting light on a leisure time activity in this rural community in Confederation Year.  Most of the stumps had not yet been removed from the cleared fields, and farming was still a very labour-intensive acti­vity.  All family members were needed to sow, weed, and harvest.  Thus, it is interesting that so many young people had free time for reading.


In 1867, the library was not open to the public until June 10th, “on account of the books not being in a fit condition to give out”.  This in­dicates that the library had functioned in previous years.


The cost of each book is recorded.  The least expensive volumes cost as little as 12 cents; the most expen­sive was "Livingston in Central Africa" which was $3, followed by the "Biblical Encyclopedia" which was valued at $1.50.  There was a total of 284 books in the library.


Funding for the project may have had the same source as the library at School Section #12, in the north­west corner of the Township.  Mr. Maddock wrote that, “Soon after S.S. 12 School was founded in 1854, a good Library was secured, the funds being provided by the Department of Education.  The books were selected by a committee whose members were David Stirton, Thomas Jarmy, and Thomas Kernighan.  Mr. Kernighan acted as librarian, and the books were kept in his house for a few years.  Afterward, the library was removed to the schoolhouse.”


Mrs. Henderson, a former student at that school, recalled the ac­quisition somewhat differently: “Mr. Kirkland, father of the late William Kirkland, was entrusted with a sum of money to use as he thought fit to help struggling schools.  He very cleverly spent it on a fine library for No. 12.  It really was a fine collection of books, with biogra­phies, histories, poems, stories from history for the half-grown children, and simple stories and poems for the little ones.  There were several hundred volumes.”


Peter McDonald seems to have been the only Crieff Library patron on July 1, 1867.  He returned “New Zealand Life” and took out “Sea and Sailors”.


During that 6-month period, 668 books were borrowed by 106 indivi­duals.  Most of the readers were school children, aged 8 - 15.  Some young adults also borrowed books: Hugh Stewart, Alexander Easton, and William McCormick, Jr. were in their early 20’s in 1867.  A few parents came to the library with their children and took out books also: Mrs. McNaughton, Mrs. D. Stewart, and Mrs. McCrone.  Mr. Henry Becker, store-keeper at Crieff, borrowed, on average, a book each month.  C. J. Passmore, a lumber merchant in the community, also visited the library a few times and borrowed “Memoirs of the Empress Josephine” and “The Twelve Great Battles of England.   Mr. William McCormick occasionally came with his children and borrowed “The St. Lawrence and the Saguenay” and “Memoirs of New Zealand Life”.


The most eager readers were Henry Becker, Jr.; Malcolm McCormick, aged 13; and his sister Mary, aged 11.  In that 6-month period, Henry borrowed 13 books, Malcolm and Mary 18 books each.  The only book that brother and sister each borrowed was “Kitty’s Victory”. There was a 5-month time lapse before Mary took it out, so it would appear that they did not share their read­ing material.


Of the children who patronized the library, at least 3 developed pro­fessional careers. Henry Becker and Dugald Stewart, born 1848, became medical doctors; Malcolm McCormick acquired an arts degree from Queen's University, wrote poetry in both Gaelic and English, and was founder and operator of Guelph Business College 1884-1914.


Some book titles were intriguing, others obviously historical novels, or geographical/travel books.  The most popular book was “Prince Arthur”, which was lent 14 times; a close second were two others, each borrowed 13 times during the period: “Rose & Kate” and “Laird’s Return”.  “Sketches of Married Life” attrac­ted the attention of both boys and girls.  Only boys read “Cook’s Voyages of Discovery”.


Practical books seemed to lack appeal.  “Dictionary of the Farm”, “Pests of the Farm”, and “Agricul­tural Class Book” were seldom borrowed.


The librarian kept close watch on the condition of the books when they were returned.  The most common complaints were “soiled” and “pages loosened”.


In the neighbouring Killean School Section, there was no library until late in the 1880’s.  However, the Sunday School had a small collection.  J. W. Gilchrist recalled, “that the books were very Scriptural.  One writer, A.L.O.E., was popular.  Al­though he did not omit the moral, he told of adventure.”  Young Gil­christ also enjoyed a book about the Assyrians which was well illus­trated.  The description of Assyrian carvings in that book stayed in his memory until he saw samples of them in the British Museum, in about 1899.


The imagery of the books that were available to children in rural Ontario in the era of Confederation was retained by the young readers.  Their world was enlarged.  They were able to envisage life beyond the limited community that they experienced.  Some continued to read in their leisure time during the rest of their lives.



This article was contributed by Anna Jackson.