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The James McCowan Memorial Social History Society

The Scots have made an enormous contribution to western society. The stories of the prominent statesmen and bankers have already largely been told. Our focus is the "non-prominent" or "ordinary" Scot and Scottish-Canadian and, in particular, oral history. We trust that this mandate is sufficiently focused so as to not conflict with the objects of other organizations. We hope to generate awareness as to the important contributions of "ordinary" people in the cultural and economic development of the Canadian multi-cultural mosaic.

The McCowan Society is grateful for the support of our Benefactors and Patrons. Benefactors are members of the Society who have made a contribution to the Society or to one of our projects of $500.00 or more. Patrons are members who have made a contribution of between $100.00 and $500.00.

 

With respect to our research in Scotland,
we are very pleased to acknowledge
the generous assistance of
The Most Honourable,
The Late Marquess of Bute
and the Late Mr. R.D. Hunter M.B.E.,
Long-time Town Clerk of Cumnock

 

We have been honoured to have had
valuable associations
with two outstanding McCowans

Our Late Honorary Chairmen

The Late Lord Justice Sir Anthony McCowan
Educated at Epsom and at Brasenose College, Oxford

and

The Late Mr. R.D. Hunter M.B.E.
Town Clerk of Cumnock 1941-1975
Dean of the Faculty of Solicitors 1975-1977

 

Correspondence and inquiries should be sent to:
The James McCowan Memorial
Social History Society
c/o D.B. McCowan
19 Monarchwood Crescent, Don Mills
Ontario, Canada, M3A 1H3, 416-447-4895
or to the above email address   
bmccowan@netrover.com  

 

Our Logo

CROFT2.GIF (4145 bytes)

www.mccowan.org

The ordinary Scots in the eighteenth century typically shared their primitive rural dwelling with their livestock. A crude log cabin protected the early Scottish settler from the wild animals of the Canadian forest. The Maple tree, made famous in Canada by Alexander Muir from Scotland, camouflages the distinction between Scotland and Canada -- the cultural and economic ties between the old country and the new remained profoundly strong for several generations and should, today, be energetically renewed through appreciation of a common heritage.

Our logo, From Croft to Clearing, was first created by our Membership Secretary, Mrs. Nancy McCowan, as the McCowan Society block in "The Metro Heritage Quilt". The Quilt, produced for 46 local heritage groups, was presented to the people of Metropolitan Toronto on Heritage Day, February 15, 1993. Ultimately, the quilt is to hang in Metro Hall at a location to be determined by the Public Art Policy Advisory Committee of Metro.

The From Croft to Clearing Logo above was very kindly drawn by George Duncan.

From the preamble to Fairs and Frolics: Scottish Communities at Work and Play


 

As a service to those who purchase one of the McCowan Society publications (other than Curling), we will reveal 5 sources for passages of interest that appear on this web site.

One component of this web site is "People" --   this page includes some biographical material on various McCowans and others who have made notable contributions to their respective communities.

 

A Not-For-Profit
Non-Charitable Organization
Dedicated To Placing the
Scottish Experience
Within the Wider Context
of the Community

Keeping Canada's Scottish heritage
both vibrant and valued through
publications, historic walks,
talks and other projects.

And in Partnership with
The Scarboro Heights Record

 


Newsflash!

Now Available from The McCowan Society... "The Lowland Clearances": The Book, by Peter Aitchison and Andrew Cassell -- more of the data that was gathered for the acclaimed three-part BBC Radio Scotland Series. Including interviews with descendants of Scarborough's Scottish families (Tuckwell Press) $29.00. Order a copy... This publication is a followup to the BBC-Radio Scotland series. The McCowan Society was pleased to help with this exciting investigation into a little-known but dramatic socio-economic disruption in Scotland.

For information to supplement our Scots In Toronto article in Post City Magazine, please click on Scottish Cultural Groups and Robbie Burns Suppers.


Our Walking Tour on Sept. 20, 2003, "The Pioneers' Kingston Road Historic Walk", was a major success. Almost 70 treked along the original line of the "Gateway to the City". Among the crowd were a number of descendants of the Annis brothers who had cleared the trail over 200 years ago.  From sales of Neigh the Front: Exploring Scarboro Heights that day, the McCowan Society donated $146.50 to the Washington United Church Cemetery Restoration Fund. Jim Morrisey, Clara Leask, John Alexander and a few others won prizes during "quiz time". They had to remember the significant events that have been sculpted into Passage, in honour of Doris McCarthy. Olga Piotrowski was the winner of our lucky draw -- a very nice coffee table book called "Highland Wilderness".

Our next Historic Walk will be in May 2004 -- please stand by for details.

The Scarboro Heights Record V11 #10

 

Scarboro Heights
Historic Sites Walking Tour
Part 3

Wha: The Pioneers' Kingston Road Historic Walk. Following the old route blazed by the Annis brothers over 200 years ago and finishing up at Washington United Church, 3739 Kingston Rd. for a Corn Roast / BBQ (modest extra cost). The historic walk is the fourth led by Bruce and Bea McCowan. We'll pass close by the earliest known site of human occupation in Toronto -- 10,000 years ago! Experience the trials of the pioneer families -- Annis, Cornell, Crone, Gates, Muir, McCowan, Stobo, Washington and others.

When: Sept. 20 2003, 2:00 pm (Rain date is the following day, 2 pm)

Where: For starting location and other details, call 416-447-4895 or send an email to bmccowanbmccowan@netrover.com.

Why: Fundraiser for Scarborough's oldest public art -- to help restore damaged gravestones at Washington United Church. 2003 is the 200th Anniversary of Washington United Church. This walk is a joint project of the Scarboro Heights Record and the Bi-Centennial Committee.

More Information here.

 


The James McCowan
Memorial Social History Society

And the
Scarboro Heights Record
Are Proud to Be
"Front and Centre" at another Major Exhibition

Toronto -- A Place of Meeting
10,000 Years of Toronto History
May 17 - August 2, 2003

Toronto Reference Library, TD Canada Trust Gallery
789 Yonge Street, Toronto (1 block north of Bloor),
416-395-5577 or 416-393-7131
Mon-Thur. 10-8;  Fri-Sat. 10-5

The McCowan Collection

The Robert Ashbridge McCowan and William Harold McCowan Collections of aboriginal artifacts include the earliest known evidence of human occupation in Toronto, approximately 8,000 BC. The sub-title of the exhibition, 10,000 years of Toronto History, was so chosen because of two of these relics found by Ashley and Harold McCowan. For many years, a partial skull was also in the attic of the Harold McCowan home -- and the associated family story relates to the "wigwam that must have been down by the bush".

James McCowan’s letter of August 20 1834 was written from Springbank, Scarborough, 8 days before his death of cholera. This letter is an Upper Canada medical history treasure, not just for it’s references to the cholera deaths in the neighbourhood but, in particular, for McCowan’s first-person description of the early symptoms of cholera. Springbank was on Lot 20 Concession B less than 1/2 mile east of the location of the aboriginal artifact finds. Notes regarding this medical history treasure.

You can also take the Virtual Tour at http://indexes.tpl.toronto.on.ca/vexhibit/Toronto/TPM/home.html. Click on the spearpoint   and then on the "View Timeline" link to start your tour of the McCowan Collection. The "Paleo-Indian", "Archaic Spear Points", "Ground Stone Axes" and "Ontario Iroquoian Pottery" are from the McCowan Collection. The James McCowan letter of 1834 is only in the virtual tour. The estimate of 500 deaths by cholera in York that year is probably low -- many were very quickly buried in common graves.

The Scarboro Heights Record V11 #6 

 


Scarborough's
Scottish Heritage

Afternoon

May 31 2003, 1:30 PM
The Bluffs Gallery

Scarborough Arts Council
1859 Kingston Road, Scarborough

  • 10,000 Years of Toronto History -- The McCowan Collection  : Bruce McCowan of the James McCowan Memorial Social History Society will speak about the archival and artifact collections of the McCowan family, Scottish immigrants to Scarborough in 1833. From the oldest known evidence of human occupation in Toronto -- 10,000 year-old aboriginal spear points -- to oral histories gathered very recently for the latest McCowan Society publication, Bruce will survey a broad range of leases, wills, personal letters, bankruptcy papers, coins, furniture and architectural and agricultural relics, all weaving the story of an ordinary Scottish Canadian farm family into the wider context of their community. The impact of the Lowland Clearances on the McCowan family will be covered in some detail.
  • The Lowland Clearances: We will also listen to this BBC-Radio Scotland program. This series has a strong focus on the impact of the agricultural revolution on Scots who emigrated to Scarborough in the early 19th century.

Contact bmccowan@netrover.com or call 416-447-4895.

The Scarboro Heights Record V11 #5


BBC Radio Scotland

So BBC are coming to Canada on Jan. 31, 2003, to interview some of the McCowans here regarding Lowland Scottish emigration to Scarborough, Canada. The "McCowan Segment" of the "Lowland Clearances" series will discuss the past 300 years of the Ayrshire McCowan family history. The series will be broadcast in late May / early June this year.

BBC would also like to communicate with descendants of other Cumnock, Ayrshire, McCowan families. You don't have to be a family history expert. Please email us the details of your connection with the McCowans of Cumnock.

BBC will also interview several other families that came from the Lesmahagow area to Scarborough in the 1830s. The following families (and others) made that journey: Stobo, Hamilton, Rae, Purdie, Young, Muir, Gibson, Weir, Neilson, Torrance, Lawrie, Tacket, Tudhope.

Please let us know as soon as possible if we can give your name, address, email address and phone number to the BBC Producers. If you can recommend another member of your family, please pass along their name and contact information.

Our publications place the experience of the ordinary Scots within the wider context of the community. 

More info here...

The Scarboro Heights Record V11 #1


The McCowan Collection

Where: North York Central Library, 5120 Yonge St., Toronto, Meeting Room 1
When: Tuesday February 18th, 2003, 7- 9 pm
Cost:    Free. (No registration required.)
Refreshments: Provided by Bea McCowan, Associate Broker, Homelife / Gold Trade Realty Ltd.
McCowan Society local history publications will be available for sale

Bruce McCowan of the James McCowan Memorial Social History Society will speak about the archival and artifact collections of the McCowan family of Scarborough. From the oldest known evidence of human occupation in Toronto -- 10,000 year-old aboriginal spear points -- to oral histories gathered very recently for the latest McCowan Society publication, Bruce will survey a broad range of leases, wills, personal letters, bankruptcy papers, coins, furniture and architectural and agricultural relics, all weaving the story of an ordinary Scottish Canadian farm family into the wider context of their community.

Directions and more info...

The McCowans' Who's Who, Vol. 11


The James McCowan
Memorial Social History Society
is Proud to be
"Front and Centre" at a Major Exhibition

Toronto -- A Place of Meeting
10,000 Years of Toronto History

Toronto Reference Library, Canada Trust Gallery
789 Yonge Street, Toronto, 416-395-5577
June 28 - September 22, 2002

On Display will be

  • The Robert Ashbridge McCowan and William Harold McCowan Collections of Indian artifacts. These collections include the earliest known evidence of human occupation in Toronto, approximately 8,000 BC. The sub-title of the exhibition, "10,000 years of Toronto History", was so chosen due entirely to these relics found by Ashley and Harold McCowan.

  • James McCowan’s letter of August 20 1834, written from Springbank, Scarborough (lot 20 Conc B), 8 days before his death of cholera. This letter is very significant to medical history in Upper Canada for it’s references to cholera deaths in the neighbourhood and, in particular, for McCowan’s first-person description of the early symptoms of cholera.

The Scarboro Heights Record V10 #5


We are flattered that the McCowan Settlement site on Meadowcliffe Drive is one of only 14 "Lost Historic Sites in Toronto" that were selected to be on www.city.toronto.on.ca/torontoplan/lost.htm.


The Scarborough McCowans Invite You to a

McCowan Family Reunion
And Picnic

Saturday, September 14, 2002
2 PM to Dusk
At Sentimental Journey
23906 Highway 48W
South of Baldwin, Ontario
Only one hour from Toronto

Potluck Style
Bring Your Favourite Dish or Dessert and Beverages
As well as lawn chairs and family pictures

Exchange Memories of the Past
Adventures of the Present and
Hopes for the Future

We'd love to meet McCowans of any connection

While in the Toronto area
Be sure to take the Sept. 7 Walking Tour of the
McCowan settlement (1833) and homestead (1853)
And don't miss the Exhibition of
McCowan farm native Indian artifacts

If you're coming from out of town
Please call 416-447-4895 or email us at
bmccowan@netrover.com

The Scarboro Heights Record V10 #6


Just Published

Neigh the Front
Exploring Scarboro Heights

142 pages
20 photographs
3 maps

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