The Canadian Red Cross in Puslinch Township


William J. Kerr










The Puslinch branch of the Canadian Red Cross is very proud of its many years of service to the community, both in wartime and during peaceful years.  It is a tribute to the dedicated effort and support of the township’s people.


The branch, originally named the Puslinch Red Cross Society, was formed during the First World War, on June 23rd 1915.  An excerpt from the Morriston news section of the Guelph Evening Mercury and Advertiser newspaper, June 18th 1915, read, in part, as follows: “A public meeting to organize the Red Cross Society will be held in the I.O.O.F. Hall on Wednesday June 23rd 1915, at 3 o’ clock.  Everybody welcome.  Remember the boys who have answered the call of King and Country.”


The first officers of the Puslinch Red Cross were:



Mrs. J. A. Wilkinson




Mrs. A. C. Bailey




Miss Gladys Laing




Mrs. W. J. Hodges



These energetic women immediately began a door-to-door canvas of the township for funds, and were assisted in their efforts by Mrs. Dr. Telfer, Mrs. Dr. King, Mrs. William Brown, Mrs. A. Smith, Mrs. H. A. Stewart, and Miss Adelaide McLean.  Before the year was out, they had raised nearly $350.00 by subscription, a remarkable feat, as it was made up of contributions of $.25 to $2.00.  This was augmented by funds received from garden parties, booths and teas at the fall fair, rug contests, auction sales, etc., etc., to a total of nearly $1,000.00.  A very resourceful group.






It is interesting to note some of the early expenditures (1915) of the Puslinch Society, as recorded in the Treasurer’s book:



Pins and needles



Two dozen flags




10 yards bunting



One dozen spools of thread




Bought goods for work



Cronks Orchestra




Miss Dyke, elocutionist



Cartage for parcels




The Guelph Evening Mercury reported also that the society held work meetings every Wednesday afternoon in the I.O.O.F. Hall, Morriston.  It is obvious that a lot of work was put into the preparation of parcels for the soldiers overseas.  The children in the schools in Puslinch also worked hard for the Red Cross.  The society records show that all of the school sections held fund raising concerts and collected coppers (one cent coins) in the so called “copper bags”.






During the height of the war, the “Evening Mercury” newspaper, of January 23rd 1917, published the quarterly report of the Puslinch Red Cross Society.  The following excerpts from that report give a picture of the Red Cross services:


Financial Report:






Balance on hand, Oct. 2nd 1916.




County and Township grants




Proceeds of concert, S.S.




Received from S.S.








Interest on deposit




Receipt for knitting needle
















Guelph branch for material




C. A. Binkley for material postage & supplies for boxes




Wood for workroom




Cartage and telephone







Balance on hand:


















Materials made and sent overseas




Hospital shirts





Khaki and grey shirts





Pyjamas (pairs)





Face cloths





Pillow cases





Wristlets (pairs)










Hot water bottle covers





Pairs socks





Within the past year, the society has sent boxes on four different occasions to sick and wounded men in hospitals, also to Puslinch boys serving in the trenches.  The boxes consisted of the necessities and comforts required in hospital and field services.  In appreciation of this work, letters of thanks have been received from every boy to whom boxes were sent.  Some of these letters were published in the Guelph Weekly Mercury and Advertiser newspaper; each showed the pleasure and appreciation of the boys.  One was received from Corporal P. Cockwell, Canadian Convalescent Hospital, Willingham House, Uxbridge, England, December 26th 1916, and another from Private D. J. Hume, 54th Battalion, C.E.F., France, December 21st 1919.


We desire to thank all who have so kindly assisted us, both financially and with their work, during the past quarter.  A perusal of the above financial statement will show that our expenses are increasing monthly, owing to the increased cost of material and expansion of the society.  We would ask that every available assistance be given us, both in money and work, as the necessity is becoming greater.


These sentiments, expressed in 1917, still hold true today.






The Puslinch Red Cross remained very active during the war.  By 1920, however, the efforts were dwindling and there came a point in 1929 when the society became inactive.


The 1939-45 World War sparked the renewal of the Red Cross in Puslinch.  The “minutes” book of the branch recorded the following: “On Thursday evening, June 20th 1940, a meeting was held in the I.O.O.F. Hall, Morriston, at 8 o’ clock, for the purpose of reorganizing the Puslinch Branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society.”  It was suggested that the Secretary write to Toronto, asking for a renewal of the charter.  (It is now hanging in the Puslinch Community Centre.)  The Puslinch Township Reeve was asked to explain a grant to be given by the County, and forward the request of the committee in charge of the war time fund that there be a central organization for each township.


The first slate of officers of the branch in 1940 were:




Mrs. T. L. Ayres




Mrs. W. N. Barton




Mrs. K. W. Crow




Mrs. H. T. Crosbie



Meetings were held monthly in Morriston and Aberfoyle Red Cross rooms, and in the houses of the executive during the wartime years.  Annual meetings were held in the Council chambers.  Fundraising took on many forms.  The traditional canvas by school sections was the main event.  However, membership dues brought in a substantial amount of money for the wartime causes.  The sale of fat and the sale of salvage were two of the period’s more interesting approaches.  It was noted by the Secretary “that we have young girls go around with boxes at the garden parties, the money to be used for boxes for the boys overseas.”






The branch’s many active committees contributed heavily to soldiers’ comfort.  The great sewing and knitting effort provided many hundreds of items.  It should be noted that during 1941, the wool committee reported that 454 pounds of wool was given out and returned, made up into 793 pairs of socks, 82 pairs of seamen socks, 39 sweaters, 14 pairs of gloves, 44 pairs of mitts, 73 scarves, 3 knee caps, 17 wristlets, 17 knitted children’s coats, 25 bonnets, 14 pairs of booties, 8 pairs of children’s socks, 4 boys’ suits, 5 girls’ dresses with knickers, 8 face cloths, and 10 pairs of soakers.


The sewing committee, the same year, had a similar outstanding report, creating items for children and families, 50 boys’ shirts, 7 girls’ coats with caps, 5 ladies’ blouses, 30 girls’ pullovers, 8 girls’ pyjamas, 17 girls’ nightgowns, 10 boys’ cardigans, 3 windbreakers, 19 sheets, 75 men’s pyjamas with extra pants, 13 layettes, 10 boys’ pyjamas, 2 ladies’ dresses, 13 children’s dresses, 4 ladies’ flannelette nightgowns, 2 ladies’ coats, 27 ladies’ vests, 9 pairs of ladies’ drawers, 2 pairs of flannelette sheets, 11 quilt tops, 110 quilts, 17 all wool blankets, 5 children’s quilts, 3 afghans, 1 pair of pillow slips, and 165 yards of flannelette, given out and returned as quilts.


There were 150 volunteer workers in 9 units; there were 39 boxes sent to the boys overseas and 16 to those training in Canada.  In 1944, there were 80 Christmas boxes sent overseas.  The branch prepared a township honour roll for the men and women in the service and organized blood donors.  During a clinic in January 1945, 126 people gave blood.






Seventy percent of the money raised through campaigns was sent to headquarters, while the thirty percent left was used in Puslinch.  It is interesting to note that the branch paid $2.00 per month to rent each workroom and paid $1.00 to rent the Council chambers for the 1949 annual meeting.


In October 1946, a loan cupboard was established.  Sickroom supplies, wheelchairs, beds, crutches, etc., were made available whenever a need arose.


By the end of the forties, wartime needs and pressures were history and the branch’s activities were somewhat reduced.  Sick-room equipment loan service, workroom preparation of clothing articles, assistance to people suffering disasters, and fundraising for national and international Red Cross programs became toe focus of the Puslinch branch.


During the fifties and sixties, the workroom ladies produced many comfort articles such as quilts, sweaters, shawls, and socks, all of which were sent to Toronto headquarters to help those in need.  A case in point was the relief action during the Winnipeg flood.  Nursing classes were held over a number of years, in which local nurses taught the art of home nursing to local women.  The Treasurer’s records show a $3.00 repair bill from Huether’s garage for Mrs. Philpott’s car.  Her car was damaged enroute to the nursing course at Puslinch Lake.  The Puslinch Red Cross also held swimming courses for local school children at the Guelph Y and also at private pools.  In 1963, “The Guardian” newspaper, of Guelph, reported that 56 children were enrolled.  The swimming awards presented to that class were made on the same evening that the branch presented to the township a commemorative plaque, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the International Red Cross.






The Puslinch Red Cross supported people involved in local disasters, usually fires.  Among its committees was one formed to help the citizens by attempting to find a doctor to locate in Morriston.  In 1967, the Secretary sent a letter of appreciation to Duff’s Church for its generous offer of the church parlour for the Red Cross meetings.  The meetings are still held there.


Many of the activities of the Puslinch Red Cross were maintained into the seventies.  Of particular importance were the women of the work committee, who continue voluntarily to produce numerous sewn and knitted items for distribution by Red Cross headquarters.  By 1979, however, this generosity of the local women was sadly “closed out” by a policy change made at headquarters.  The local branch diligently continued its loan cupboard, throughout the 70’s and 80’s supplying various community needs.  First aid courses were sponsored and water safety training was continued for some time, with over 40 enrolled.


On July 22nd 1990, the Puslinch Branch celebrated its 75th anniversary in the community centre, with a birthday cake.  Despite the rain, a large number of members, former members, and friends turned out for an afternoon of remembrance.  The Puslinch Pioneer newspaper published a history of the society in its June and July-August issues of that year.






The Puslinch Red Cross, at present, directs its energies to four main activities, loan cupboard, local disaster, the Annual Campaign, and emergency preparedness.


Loan Cupboard:

This service, started in 1946, has continued throughout the years, giving uninterrupted access to sick-room equipment such as wheelchairs and other handicap supports.  It has had several locations and is extensively used.  It is now located in Duff’s Church, where washing and disinfecting equipment has been installed.  This service has been renamed several times.  It is now called Home Healthcare Equipment Service or HHES.


Local Disaster:

In 1951, the loan cupboard supplied four families, who had experienced fires, with quilts and clothing.  Now, a separate committee of four makes a visual assessment of the need after a fire.  If deemed necessary, a complete outfit of serviceable clothes is bought for each member of the household, as well as bedding, where needed.


Annual Campaign:

This was started in July 1940, with two canvassers in each school section in the township.  Money raised in 1942 was $720.15, of which, seventy percent was sent to headquarters, the rest being used in the local society.  This canvass of the community, now held in March, has continued up to the present time, with over 50 volunteers going door to door.  The personal contact by the volunteers has been very successful, so much so, that a lot of township residents genuinely welcome the canvasser’s visit, for news of the society and a complimentary copy of the annual report.  The receipts have been growing steadily.  In 1996, the amount raised was $10,605.00, all of which was sent to headquarters.






In 1989, the Canadian Red Cross initiated a campaign for funds to build a new headquarters, called “The Side by Side Campaign”.  Money taken in by this canvass was to be divided half and half between the local society and the parent society.  Puslinch, having no particular need for extra funds at the time, sent in the total amount, over $4,000.00, to headquarters.


Emergency Preparedness:

In April 1979, Mrs. John Griesbach and Mr. Wm. J. Kerr attended a Red Cross emergency preparedness leadership course in Toronto.  This resulted, with the blessing of the township council, in a plan being set up, whereby the local Red Cross, if asked, would assist the police and fire department in executing the township’s emergency plan in the sections relating to transportation, food, shelter, clothing, and registration and enquiry.  Workshops were held for several years where mock disaster scenarios were discussed to familiarize those involved with disaster procedure.  These committees are still in place and kept updated. 






Recognitions – The Canadian Red Cross has several awards whereby volunteer workers are recognized for their commitment in support of various aspects of the work.  The Puslinch branch has from time to time taken advantage of this policy.  It is impossible to name all those who have given voluntarily of their time to the Red Cross, so we have chosen to list only those dedicated people who have given over ten years and have been awarded the “Badge of Service” or the “Distinguished Service Award”.


Their names are:



Mrs. J. P. McPherson


Mrs. Reid McNaughton




Mrs. J. Bolton


Mrs. Russell Hayden




Mrs. Margaret Hodges


Mrs. C. Torrance




Miss Mabel McNaughton


Mrs. Hugh E. Cockburn




Miss Margaret Kerr


Mr. Len Geiss




Mrs. Wilfred Barton


Mr. Wm. D. Winer




Mrs. Lorne Philpott


Mr. Duncan McFarlane




Mrs. Thos. Ayres


Mrs. Lorne Page




Mr. Albert McWilliams


Mr. Lorne Page




Mr. Thomas Mahon


Mr. Wm. J. Kerr




Mr. H. T. Crosbie


Mrs. John Griesbach




Mr. H. B. Gibson


Mrs. E. S. MacDonald




Mr. D. A. Stewart


Mrs. Evelyn Fixter




Mrs. Alex (Sandy) McLean


Mrs. Jack Bishop




Mr. James Starkey


Mrs. Sharon Logher




Mrs. George Steffler


Mrs. Margaret Rolfe




Mr. Duncan Buchanan


Mrs. Muriel Mast




Miss Jean McLean




Mrs. A. J. Huether

Mrs. Donald G. Hanning

Mrs. Robert MacRobbie







History was made for the Canadian Red Cross Society on Tuesday October 22nd 1996, at the regular meeting of the Puslinch branch.  Three men were honoured for serving over 50 volunteer years.  This is an unheard of achievement.  Duncan McFarlane, William D. Winer, and William J. Kerr were each presented with a framed Distinguished Service Certificate, a Pin, and a Red Cross plate denoting the 50 years of service. 


These three men have all shown outstanding leadership and participation in holding branch executive positions and serving on numerous committees over the years.  The quality of their exemplary service and their commitment should be an inspiration to all volunteers.  Gabriell Moule, President of the Ontario Zone, in making the presentation, noted that, in the long time that she had been associated with the Red Cross, she had only presented one other 50-year plate and applauded the Puslinch branch for having these three dedicated men.  We are proud of them.


The need for Red Cross services is increasing worldwide and will always be with us.  As we near the twenty-first century, it is uncertain how a rural branch can retain its identity, or even exist.  Bureaucracy, administrative approaches, and pressures, which dictate to nearly all organizations, present problems for the small societies that try to keep things simple.  The self-sufficient nature of the Puslinch branch may have to adjust to keep its identity.  







The Canadian Red Cross in Puslinch Township


William J. Kerr




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