Pioneer Log-House Re-Built at Doon Village.

Report by James Alexander, Chairman of Trustees, Clan Donald Society of Grand River Valley, Ontario.

Before I became President of the Grand River Branch, I felt I should have a good project to interest the members, especially something to catch the eyes of any interested in becoming members. We had a membership at the time of about 18.

In June of 1969 I had occasion to be at Doon Pioneer Village situated in the Grand River Conservation Area between Galt and Kitchener, Ontario. This is a pioneer village where many very old buildings have been preserved after being moved from their original locale. I realised that such a project would be ideal for our Branch of Clan Donald. To find a log-house built by a MacDonald pioneer in good condition and reconstruct it in Doon Village, I searched all that summer and found two at Puslinch Township, but in very bad state. They did not seem in a fit condition to move to a new site. However, further search led me to the one we finally made our project. It was built by a Neil Currie or MacVurich, a good Clan Donald name. It was ideal.

Neil Currie, who was a schoolteacher in Puslinch Village near Hespeler, built the house in 1850 in a predominately Scottish settlement. It is said of Neil that be made his own pens out of goose feathers, also his own ink, and that he could draw a circle round an English penny and write the Lord’s Prayer within the circle and it was still quite legible. He owned property in Waterloo Township but, by some confidence trickster he was about to be swindled out of it. He made a trip to England in spite of various politicians who tried to stop him; and succeeded in securing an audience with Queen Victoria, who settled the matter in his favour.

When I found the house it was on property owned by the Grand River Conservation Authority. On approaching certain of the officials I found that the house was due to be demolished. After some discussion they agreed to turn it over to me with a view to it being transported and re-erected in the Doon Village as a Clan Donald property, and thus preserve it for posterity. The letter from the authority arrived in the 3rd week of November 1969 about the time I had been installed as President of the Grand River Branch of Clan Donald. A meeting was called at once and all the members agreed to my proposal that we adopt the plan and work would commence in the spring of 1970.

In spite of some cold weather there was a good turn out of members, men, women and children. It was a formidable task. Lath and plaster had to be stripped, doors and windows with their frames carefully removed, floorboards too, the roof, and finally each log individually marked for replacement. Then the logs had to be transported to Doon some 14 miles away. (Each about 24 ft.  to 30 ft. in length). A huge tractor-trailer 40 ft. in length was used, supplied by a well-known Puslinch resident, Archie MacDobbie.

Rebuilding on the new site began in the summer on a prepared foundation of concrete blocks. Nearby a rowan tree had been planted by Lord and Lady Macdonald during an earlier visit, and it is growing well. Since the start we have been ably helped by a hardcore of faithful workers who have spared no effort to get ahead with the work, assisted by various numbers of others who came along to help. By Sunday 11th August the roof was finished at a cost of over 700 dollars for shingles alone. Money was raised by sales of work, and donations from many members.

It is our hope that the house will be ready for the Annual Scottish Weekend in June and have our ex-Lieutenant Governor, the Rt. Hon. Ross MacDonald, who is Hon. President of the Grand River Society. We intend to furnish it in the style of 1850, and already we have suitable period pieces promised to that end. Other relics of the Clan can be shown too to promote interest in visitors. In addition it should be an attractive centre for Clan activities. An interesting side-light is that already a lady who spent her girlhood in this very house has been to see it and is very happy that her old home is being used in this manner. We look forward to the future with confidence that this old log-house will be a worthy tribute to the pioneers of Canada, so many of whom belonged to our great Clan.