Lambton Heritage Museum marks community’s military history
A new exhibit at the Lambton Heritage Museum is sharing, while still gathering, stories about Lambton at War, along with artifacts from the community’s military history.
The new exhibit, Lambton at War, runs until Nov. 11 at the Lambton County museum, located on Highway 21 in Lambton Shores.
After staff at the museum put out a call earlier to the community for stories about its experiences at war, it heard back from 67 people with memories and artifacts to share.
And, Laurie Webb, curator and supervisor of the county museums, said they are hoping to gather even more memories and family stories while the exhibition runs through the summer.
Museum visitors are able to read some of the personal stories using a touch screen that is part of the exhibit.
Webb said Lambton at War follows last year’s First World War exhibit at the museum, and covers the period from the Fenian Raids in the later half of the 1800s, through to modern times.
The exhibit didn’t begin with the earlier War of 1812 since there was little European settlement in Lambton County at that time, Webb said.
“The Fenian Raids was the first major campaign Lambton was involved in,” she said.
The Fenians were American supporters of Ireland, and its fight for independence from Great Britain, who in the 1860s and 1870s threatened to attack the British in Canada.
After staging raids across border, the Fenian threat eventually faded, but officials in Canada took the threat seriously, including the possibility Sarnia, on the St. Clair River, would be a target.
“You start to see local militia formed with members from all over the county,” said Luke Stempien, the museum’s assistant curator.
The first armouries were also developed in Sarnia at that time.
“They really felt that there was a big threat,” Webb said.
“There was one skirmish on the St. Clair River, but not much came of it.”
Although, Stempien said, the Fenian threat is credited as a uniting force in the push for Confederation during that era.
The exhibit includes a red uniform coat from the local militia unit formed at the time that is in the collection of the Oil Museum of Canada.
The uniform belonged to Charles Edward Hurley Fisher who was 16 when he enlisted and served in the 27th Lambton Battalion of Infantry during the Fenian Raids.
The exhibit also includes a document from the museum collection noting one of the land grants given to veterans of the raids, as well as Fenian campaign medals, “which are fairly hard to come by now,” Webb said.
“We’re fortunate to have two in our collection.”
The local unit was also known as the St. Clair Borderers and remained active to the First World War when its recruits from Lambton were dispersed to other regiments before heading to the fight in Europe.
“They were running into whole towns that were wiped out,” Stempien said about the Canadian military’s decision to move away from having community-based units remain together at the front.
“Prior to that, it was really common for them to be fighting as a home town.”
Also included in the exhibit are artifacts from the Boer War, a conflict 16 men from the community served in. One of them was Frederick Gorman who joined the 27th, fought in the Boer War and then retired from the unit at as major just before the outbreak of the First World War.
He re-enlisted to serve in that conflict, and his medals from both wars are part of the display.
Along with artifacts from the museum’s own collection, the exhibit includes loaned items connected to the stories of local veterans.
“It’s a great opportunity to let the community see them, and let the families share their stories,” Webb said.
The Second World War section includes the uniform and cap of Elwood ‘Shorty’ Hyatt from Enniskillen Township who served in a highland regiment.
“When Elwood came home, he left his kit in the attic and never unpacked it,” Stempien said.
The family loaned Hyatt’s kit, and the duffel bag it was in, to the museum so it could be included in the exhibit.
“This is actually the first time it has been unpacked since 1945,” Stempien said.
The exhibit also includes information on the impact the conflicts had on the home front, and a section on Sarnia-Lambton’s contribution to modern campaigns, with artifacts loaned by the family of Brent Poland, a Lambton soldier who died serving in Afghanistan.
IF YOU GO:
What: The exhibit Lambton at War.
Where: Lambton Heritage Museum, on Highway 21 near the entrance of Pinery Park.
When: The exhibit is on through Nov. 11 and the museum is open in the summer, weekdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends and holidays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Details: More information about the museum and its exhibits can be found online at www.lambtonmuseums.ca