The 2014 Remembrance Day ceremonies at Springwater Park are well on their way.

August 20, 2014

Enjoy a double slideshow of the 2012 event which features a non-cleaned Vespra Boys cairn.

If you’d like to help the organizers out, just comment on this post and I will confidentiallydo the rest.

  • my immediate family’s military heritage.

Has the Ministry of Natural Resources treated the ladies in Springwater Park in a Christian manner?

December 20, 2013

Speaking from my imperfect knowledge of  Catholic social justice principles, no.

SSMarie Precious Blood Cathedral1

Notwithstanding an overall cordial relationship between the perfectly legal First Nations occupation and the local/regional MNR staff and the Premier’s office, any decision above the “mid-level grunt” level is clearly in bad faith (mala fidesand unfair dealings.


  • refusing to meet with the occupation, Beausoleil First Nation, and community leaders at the same time, even once after 8.5 months opportunity to do so, (unreasonably force a winter occupation to cynically take credit for re-opening on Apr 1, 2014 which may coincide with a provincial election),
  • breeding distrust between indigenous and settler leaders (divide-and-conquer),
  • using the 230 cm of our expected snowfall and -20 C temperatures to drive first nations’ grandmothers out of the park or into the hospital,
  • cynically playing “bad cop” to Premier Wynne’s “good cop” (here, here, here, now here),
  • threatening to knock the building down,
  • cutting off all electricity for lights, heat and security in a 193 ha., unsecure wilderness more than 3 months ago,
  • refusing to meet with community groups from the Assistant Deputy Minister level and above,
  • (so far) refusing the community permission to do volunteer snow removal to keep the 14 km. of ski and snowshoe trails open. This also forces low income families to pay over $1,000 at private ski resorts for a season pass instead of using our already-paid-for trails.,
  • showing up late as guests for a spiritual ceremony,
  • refusing to allow fallen trees to be harvested for firewood by chainsaw,
  • failing to investigate damage done to vehicles (twice), and
  • approving the sandblasting/desecration of the Vespra Boys cairn (eg. the Anishinaabe and Medewinin Lodge call field stones “Grandfather”; people, animals, air, land, water, trees and even stones have a type of “soul”, made by the Creator and it is my great honour to have been taught should be valued and protected from harm).

I wish Minister David Orazietti and his family all the best for this Christmas season. He and I will be enjoying the warmth, generosity, support and company of our family, parish and community over this very special time in the liturgical calendar. I imagine that the Precious Blood Cathedral in Sault Ste. Marie will be as comfortable as St. Mary’s parish in Barrie will be for Midnight Mass next Tuesday night. St Marys bulletinWe have a terrific new pastor at St. Mary’s who was born in Kenya.

I’ve never had occasion to talk to him specifically about intolerance but this is the first such collection I can remember.

Cross-posted on

NOTE: A very similar article appeared in the Springwater News on January 2, 2014. pdf

Ontario War Memorials visits and reports on the Vespra Boys cenotaph

November 26, 2013

This memorial is one small obstacle in the future development of these sacred lands, one which will be removed if the current political agenda is allowed to continue. Hopefully the will of the citizens of Springwater can win out over the tax-seeking, developer endorsed politicians of Ontario. 

Excerpt from

Midhurst (Vespra Township)
Saturday, 2 November 2013


Location: Simcoe County N 44 26.393 W 079 45.723
Located inside Springwater Provincial Park. Follow the signs from Highway 26, park at the front gate and follow the path to the right, for 300 metres.


This historic memorial represents a story which is much more involved than meets the eye. The area where the memorial was erected is an area of conservation, of remembrance, and currently of conflict.

This area been used as traditional lands of the Native people who have lived here successfully for over 10,000 years, the rich hardwood forests supplying them with the means to survive and thrive. During the years of settlement, the Natives where eventually replaced by settlers and their farms. The land soon became barren, due to the sandy soil which could not support the toils of farming, and turned to a windblown wasteland of desert. Along came one of Ontario’s most prominent conservationists, Dr. Edmund Zavitz, Ontario’s first Chief Forester, who developed the idea of planting pine trees to stabilize the soil and thus helped to save the landscape across southern Ontario. Dr. Zavitz, along with future Premier Hon. E.C. Drury (1919-1922) established Ontario’s first demonstration forest right here, near Midhurst, in an area which had eroded to the point of no return and also contained several life-giving springs to sustain and grow his beloved pines. The springs are an important headwaters for the Minesing Wetlands, an internationally important, RAMSAR Convention wetlands. The Minesing Wetlands is the last, largest continuous wetlands in southern Ontario. For years this area was used by “Zavitz’s Boys” as a training ground for conservation and forestry. Over one million pines were planted in the Midhurst Forest Station, and eight to ten million seedlings were distributed across the province

With the outbreak of war in 1914, many of the local boys headed off to Europe to further serve their country and fight for freedom. Many never came back, and eighteen men from Vespra Township(now Springwater Township) lost their lives in the conflict. Dr. Zavitz arranged to pay tribute to these brave souls by erecting a monument in this forest, among the pines and natural springs, to pay tribute to the Vespra Boys. A stone cenotaph was hand-built in 1929 by local men Robert Mills and Harvey Spence under the direction of Methven A. Adamson, Superintendent of the Forest Station 1929 – 1956, The Vespra Boys cenotaph was the central focus of the Vespra Legion Branch 149 which started in 1929, had over 120 members at its height and was de-commissioned in 1974 because its membership fell below the minimum allowable. Two engraved plaques of limestone where embedded on the stone cairn. The inscription on the white marble front piece is Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori – Latin from Horace meaning: It is sweet and right to die for your country. In 1913, Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori was inscribed on the wall of the chapel of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, UK the British Army officer initial training centre. The phrase can be found at the front entrance to the Arlington Memorial Amphitheater at the Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, USA. On the back of the cairn, originally was a fountain of spring water, the essential element of life, along with a suitable plaque. In front of the memorial was once a small pond and fountain, a symbol of eternal life, now filled in and removed.

After the Second World War, a “V” for Victory was created across the bank of a small stream behind the memorial. The original configuration was made of Yew trees, and later changed to a stone V-shaped garden, which can still be seen today.

The area was designated a Provincial Park in 1958, and continued to grow, not only as a recreation area for the people of this region, but also as an area of continued conservation and appreciation of nature. Springwater Provincial Park is a tremendous asset to the people of Springwater Township and visitors alike.

The current provincial government, in its wisdom decided to close Springwater Park in October of 2012, along with nine other Provincial Parks. With encroaching development from Barrie, and the value of this land as a prospective tax base, the future of this beautiful park is under a severe threat. Shortly after the announcement of the closure of the park, the area was occupied by several Native people, destined to save this historic and unique forest from development. The Natives still occupy the park today, but allow visitors to enjoy the forest and roam freely under the tall pines.

The memorial itself is also under threat of being removed, with a group called Springwater Park Citizens Coalition trying their best to protect not only the park, but also to protect the memorial and keep it here in its chosen location, rather than have it moved to another location and possibly being damaged in the process. Recently the memorial was subjected to a severe sand-blasting of the stonework and several of the adjacent flowerpots and decorations were damaged in the process. The work done to the memorial has vastly changed the look, destroying the attractive patina acquired from years of weathering, and also caused cracks in the mortar, which will be destructive once the cold weather and ice wreaks its havoc. Why the Ministry of Natural Resources used such a destructive method is scandalous, although they claim they are trying to restore and preserve the cairn, they seem to have caused more damage than good. This memorial is one small obstacle in the future development of these sacred lands, one which will be removed if the current political agenda is allowed to continue. Hopefully the will of the citizens of Springwater can win out over the tax-seeking, developer endorsed politicians of Ontario.

This year on November 11th, a traditional Remembrance Day ceremony is scheduled to take place, despite the current situation, which will also include a tribute of the Native contribution to our nation in times of conflict. In the past, the MNR had placed a wreath at the cenotaph, but there had never been a proper ceremony. Now with the closing of the park, the local people are taking it upon themselves to do what is right.


The names of the eighteen Vespra Boys lost in the Great War:

· Arthur Bell
· Frederick Benson
· Ernest Cloughley
· Lewis Cole
· Ernest A. Finlay
· Wilson Greaves
· Wilfred Higgins
· Herbert Roy Hodgson
· George Hodgson
· Arthur Jacobs
· Wallace Key
· William Lang
· Garnet Maw
· John Muir
· William Parker
· James Henry (Harry) Priest
· Stanley Reynolds
· George Selkirk


Marker text:








*Special thanks to from Mr. Les Stewart MBA, of the Springwater Park Citizens Coalition, for providing a guided tour of the site and for his never-ending quest to save Springwater Park. His notes and knowledge helped greatly with this posting.

Mr. Tim Laye was invited to document the war memorial at Springwater Park in the summer and the visit happened on October 18, 2013, one week after the sandblasting happened. Words and pictures: Tim Laye

Almost 300 Ontario War Memorials are documented on

November 26, 2013

Since 2011, Tim Laye has paid tribute to veterans through their war memorials through his weblog.


On his About Me section:

My goal as I travel throughout the Province of Ontario, is to photograph and document all the war memorials dedicated to the brave souls who gave their lives for their country. Lest We Forget. I am also a modern day explorer, traveling the world in search of history, hidden treasures, abandoned buildings, monuments and interesting stories that can only be found off the beaten path. I prefer to travel by motorcycle, as there is no better way to experience the world.

Take a look and follow Tim’s weblog. Make a comment the war memorial that is special to your family.

Please see Tim’s work for the Vespra Boys cenotaph here.

Sincere appreciation for Remembrance Day 2013 and hope for a new beginning for Springwater Park

November 21, 2013

Donna Hawthorne calls for “heart and hope” and a renewed vigour from Simcoe County and Springwater Township.

Four flags

The flags of Canada, Ontario, the County of Simcoe and Springwater Township were displayed during Monday’s Armistice (Remembrance) Day ceremonies at Springwater Provincial Park. BOB BRUTON/BARRIE EXAMINER


Springwater News
November 21, 2013

Remembrance Celebration at Springwater Park
Donna Hawthorne

This is my letter of great appreciation to all that were involved with the organizing and preparation of the special Remembrance Day celebration that took place at Springwater Park in Midhurst.

It was like no other celebration that I have ever attended in the past. The ceremony opened with Reverend Black from Tiny Township. Rev. Black was very involved with Site 41. He spoke with eloquence and ascendancy. The cenotaph is surrounded by giant spruce trees which swayed in the wind as the bagpiper played. It was a treat to have the young people from Eastview Secondary School recite the names of the “Vespra Boys”, sing with heart “Amazing Grace” and lay a wreath. The native people attended and also laid a wreath. I thank them for their diligence and warm strong heart for remaining on this special park. It was nice to see two representatives of our Springwater Council, Councilors Jack Hanna and Sandy McConkey. They laid a wreath representing the township. This memorable celebration was attended by over one hundred residents who encircled the cenotaph with their memories of ones they lost and for the “Vespra boys”. I hope they all went away with optimism in their hearts that this will be a new beginning for Springwater Park. It must be the responsibility of Simcoe County Council and Springwater Township to work strongly with the Ontario government to better preserve and save this historic park for future generations to come.

With heart and hope!

Donna Hawthorne

An informed comment on the changes to the Vespra Boys cenotaph: “a locally significant public monument that deserves the best possible care”

November 18, 2013

For professional reasons, experts cannot put their name, education, and experience to their opinions.

Before sand blasting when registered with the Department of Defence.

Face marble no relief

After sand blasting. Photographed on October 11, 2013.

Nevertheless, the legitimate authority of their statements shine through. 

Such is the case with “Darwin” from this post:

2. Darwin says:
October 16, 2013 at 12:29 pm
In spite of the perception that stone and mortar are indestructible materials, such is not the case. As pointed out above, these materials all have varying physical properties that together form a complex assemblage.

I would hope that a full assessment of the condition of the monument, along with a detailed treatment plan, were developed prior to any work taking place. Sadly, this is probably not the case.

The old fashioned get-er-done approach to restoration of masonry has been “sandblasting”. Blasting with silica is highly aggressive, and more often than not causes damage to the substrate. While an improved appearance may be gained in the short term, the consequence of such an invasive approach can be accelerated deterioration. This is not to say that media blasting has no place in this type of work, but there are many less aggressive materials than silica which may be employed.

As with most projects of this nature, I’m sure it started with the best of intentions. Unfortunately it is not always as easy and straight forward as it may seem, and once the damage is done there is usually no going back.

I would hope that all work on the monument is based on a proper preservation plan, including a maintenance plan, that is sensitive to the materials and heritage integrity of the monument. There are resources and guidelines available to assist with this work, including Landscapes of Memories: Guide for Conserving Historic Cemeteries by Tamara Anson-Cartwright, and the Appleton Charter for the Protection and Enhancement of the Built Environment by ICOMOS Canada.

This is a locally significant public monument that deserves the best possible care, and I hope that the ground work for long term care has, or is, being properly prepared.

In closing, it is important to consider that preservation and ‘good looks’ are not always synonymous.

Yes: what done is done and there’s no merit in the “blame game”.

But a professional restoration includes a proper preservation plan (remedial assessment, and treatment and maintenance program) which is developed using the best practices in the field in consultation with recognized local heritage, veteran, and community stakeholders. It’s not a matter of $ because many of standards have already been paid for through our tax dollars. Ministry of Tourism, Culture, and Sport: Heritage

We need to finish the paperwork and be more thoughtful in the future.

We owe our community builders that respect, don’t we?

The words in marble on the Vespra Boys cenotaph are an important part of its message.

November 15, 2013

The message needed to be legible so we would not forget.

Sandblasting before after1

Plaque in October 2013: before (l) and after sandblasting.

It was unclear why the marble plaque had to be touched at all because it had no structural issues.

%d bloggers like this: