Methven A. “Matt” Adamson overcame many obstacles to found, nurture and defend Springwater Park.

May 4, 2016

A fellow forester told me recently that Major Adamson had to fight like hell with his superiors about the park’s very existence.

19490627 Adamson photo

From the Barrie Examiner June 27, 1949:

METHVEN A. “MATT” ADAMSON is superintendent of the Ontario Forestry Station at Midhurst. He is one of those responsible for the beautiful development at Springwater Park, picnic and recreational centre for thousands of Simcoe County folk and visitors from all over Canada and the United States.

Plaque Adamson

Plaque reads:

Springwater Park:  An everlasting tribute to the foresight, ingenuity and resourcefulness of Methven A. Adamson Superintendent Provincial Forest Station Midhurst during the period 1929 – 1956.

Plaque Adamson distance

Across from the Vespra Boys cairn, the main maintenance building in the back.

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For more details, please see:

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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 OntarioWarMemorials.blogspot.ca:

Midhurst (Vespra Township)
Saturday, 2 November 2013

OnWar1

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.

OnWar2

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.

OnWar3

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

OnWar4

Marker text:
Front:
LEST WE FORGET
1914-1918
IN MEMORY OF THE
VESPRA BOYS
WHO DIED IN THE
GREAT WAR
DULCE ET DECORUM EST
PRO PATRIA MORIUM

OnWar5

Back:
THROUGH SACRIFICE
WE DRINK OF LIFE

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*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


Canadian Forestry Corps: for each fighting soldier, 5 trees needed to be sacrificed for us to be free.

November 7, 2013

A crisis in wood production is met by experienced Canadian forestry professionals.

Canadian Forestry Corps1

A very interesting look into a little known branch of the Canadian military. some excerpts and images from a Bob Briggs article:

Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC)
In both World War I and World War II the Canadian government formed the Canadian Forestry Corps (CFC), in answer to the British government’s request for overseas woodsmen to cover a workforce shortage in Britain. In WWII, the CFC consisted of around 30 companies that were sent to work, mainly in Scotland, but also elsewhere in Europe. Although a military unit, the CFC’s main task was to cut down trees, not fight. They focused on recruiting men who were already experienced in forestry; few had military experience. As the unit did not exist as part of the pre-war army it had to be recruited from scratch; a soldier’s rank therefore often depended on his previous status in the forestry industry

….

The war created a crisis in wood supply for the United Kingdom. Pre-war domestic production covered only a small fraction of the timber needed to support the war effort. In addition to civilian requirements, it was estimated that every soldier needed five trees: one for living quarters, messing, and recreation; one for crates to ship food, ammunition, tanks, and so on; and three for explosives, gun stocks, coffins, ships, factories, and direct or indirect support for the fighting line.

Wikipedia: Canadian Forestry Corps

CanadianSoldiers.com

CFC map1

Source ‘The Sawdust Fusiliers’ book by William C Wonders. Map shows the city where each of the first twenty companies of the CFC were mobilized from, plus a chart that indicates the percentage of soldiers each province provided.

The Commonwealth looks to Canada for expertise in forestry practices with Ontario supplying almost 40 per cent of these “overseas woodsmen”:

Once again the British Government turned to Overseas Woodsman to assist in the war effort. Given their impressive record in World War One it was natural that they looked to Canada to provide forestry units once again. In May 1940 the Canadian Government decided to form a Canadian Forestry Corps. Twenty Companies were initially formed with ten more as the war progressed.

The financial agreement between the two Governments as similar to that in World War I. Canada would bear the cost of pay, allowances and pensions, all initial personal equipment, transport to and from the United Kingdom. The British Government paid for “all other services connected with equipment, work or maintenance” and certain others, including medical services. Canada covered the cost for Medical Officers and Britain paid for hospitalization.

The arrangement was unusual as it resulted in a Canadian Unit working for the British, who controlled the areas of work and disposal of the product, but Military operations of the C.F.C. was never surrendered by the Canadians and came under command of Canadian Military Headquarters in London. Even though the C.F.C. had to serve two masters, no serious problems ever resulted.

CFC cat1

Sir Charles Ross was one of the first people to use caterpillar tractors to harvest trees, as can be seen in this image from his estate. Later the CFC instigated the widespread use of this machinery in Scotland. © Tain & District Museum Trust. Licensor

The professionals from No. 14 Company go to Scotland to help:

Prior to the arrival of the Canadian lumberjacks there were various undertakings by the British Government to aid in the harvesting of limber for their own use. Such contributions were helpful, but on occasion the efforts of unskilled workers created problems for the professionals later.

The No. 14 Coy brought with them the most up-to-date logging equipment then available in Canada. They brought a standard medium type rotary mill with a capacity of 1500-2000 bd. ft. an hour or c. 8,000 cu. ft a week/3-5-4-7 cm an hour or 227 cm a week. (The British Forestry Commission also provided the company with a Scotch mill or bench, but these were not popular with the Canadians.) Power was supplied by 100-horsepowe Diesel generators. Logging equipment included TD9 caterpillar tractors, lorries, sulkies (pneumatic-tired arches), angle dozers for road making, and two and three drum winches for high-lead logging. They also were equipped with a variety of transportation vehicles, four tractors, two sulkies, one motorcycle, and originally six bicycles.

CFC truck1

Heavy CFC logging truck. Courtesy of the Private Charles Frederick Neale Collection

Canadian soldiers have always been welcomed in the Commonwealth and elsewhere for a very good reason…they’re community oriented:

The CFC was apparently well liked in the Scottish Highlands. The men became active participants in local functions, from fundraising to staging Christmas parties for the local children. Many times, scrap wood mysteriously fell from lorries beside homes in need of fuel. A notable tribute to the CFC was paid by Laura Lady Lovat when she stated, “you Canadians may be cutting the Scots firs of the Highlands, but in Highland hearts you are planting something far more lasting”.

CFC bridge1

Bridge building crew. Photo Courtesy of Mitchell Bell

Professional Canadian warriors know how to be good guests in a community:

Members of the CFC were seen in uniform regularly at local parades in support of varied wartime causes. In addition to their distinctive cap badges and shoulder patches, from Mar 1943 the CFC were identified by a green triangle below the ‘Canada’ flash on the upper arm of the battle dress.

Church parades also brought them to the public’s attention as the No. 9 Coy made use of the local church buildings as well as holding religious services in the camp.

CFC personnel went out of their way to make Christmas Day memorable for the local children, many of whom came from poor crofts and many of whose fathers were away in the service. No. 14 Company at Wilderness Camp also donated toys made by its members in their own time, for sale in Aviemore and Inverness on behalf of the Red Cross Fund. Personnel gave up their rations of candy so that the children might have them.

One such overseas woodsman was Major  Methven Alexander Adamson, No. 14 Company, Canadian Forestry Corps. He was the Midhurst Forest Station and Springwater Park superintendent from 1929 to 1956.

Through sacrifice

Superintendents

Springwater Park

  • Ike Merritt, I.C. 1922 – 1927
  • G. Richard Lane 1927 – 1929
  • Methven A. Adamson 1929 – 56
  • Cyril Jackson 1934 – 1975
  • William R. Wilson 1975 – 1996
  • Gordon Murphy 1996 – 1998
  • Bradley Warren 1998 – 2008
  • Thomas Wilson 2008 –
  • Scott Thomas 2013 – current

Midhurst Forest Station

  • Ike Merritt, I.C. 1922 – 1927
  • G. Richard. Lane 1927 – 1929
  • Methven A. Adamson 1929 – 1956
  • John M. Halpenny 1956 – 1969
  • C. Rid Groves 1969 – 1983
  • Kenneth Reese 1983 – 1993

Just a reminder about Remembrance Day at Springwater Park on November 11th

November 2, 2013

And a plea not to change what community leaders built circa 1929.

Clint Lovell2

Restore only as is necessary to preserve the design and structural integrity of a community heritage gem. When in doubt, do nothing and respect the builders’ thoughts and actions

A nice announcement by A Channel on October 31st about Remembrance Day (click here for details) called, Local students take on special Remembrance Day project:

Excerpt:

Students at Eastview Secondary School in Barrie have taken on a special project for Remembrance Day.

They’re researching the soldiers who are commemorated by the cenotaph at Springwater Park.

The Cenotaph, dedicated to the soldiers from Vespra who died in World War I, is being rededicated. The Friends of Springwater Park started the project and the students are helping learn more about the 23 names carved on the memorial.

Half a dozen students are doing the work and will be reading a little bit about the soldiers they are researching at the rededication on Remembrance Day.

Let’s hope Nancy Bigelow and the Friends of Springwater Park and Mr. Clint Lovell are not changing the monument by putting the names on a plaque and fixing the plaque on the cairn. The intent of men who built the cairn (Maj. Meth Adamsonwho directed it being built), Robert Peacock, Harvey Spence and Charlie Day) was NOT to record the names.

The sacrifice was borne largely by the deceased and their family but the whole community was affected.

Someone did check with Major Adamson’s children and grandchildren (many with prominent lives in Barrie) before they planned to change his design, didn’t they? Or at least the Springwater Heritage Committee. Right?

Why do people think they know better than those that death has silenced? if they wanted the names, don’t you think they would have done it back then? Are they listening even now?

Charlie Day and me


The story of Springwater Provincial Park is a Faith-filled journey

February 13, 2013

From the February Midhurst Newsletter.

Midhurst Community Newsletter logo

The story of Springwater Provincial Park is a Faith-filled journey
Sanctuary, peace and redemption after The Great War
Les Stewart

The forests, lakes and streams of Simcoe County developed over millions of years but very nearly permanently destroyed within 50 years in the mid 1800s by reckless actions. The forests fell, triggering a profound changes and one environmental crisis after another. Land too infertile to farm was left to create dust storms to such an extent that in the 1920s, farmers in Ontario had to plow their lanes in the summer because of the sand drifts. Fires ran unchecked.

Two men, E.C. Drury of Crown Hill and Edmund Zavitz, Ontario’s first forester, were friends that devoted their lives to redeeming this error. Drury as a boy remembers the night sky glowing red at the fires from the Midhurst plains, the water being poisoned, the flash fires. His faith drove him to act. In 1905, Drury and Zavitz surveyed the Angus, Orr Lake and Midhurst areas for the sites of a future tree forest station. The Midhurst plains were chosen because of the abundant springs that have been a significant headwaters to the internationally recognized Minesing Wetlands.

In 1922, the Midhurst Forest Station started and, with it, Springwater Park. The park was proof of the value of reforestation to the municipalities in central Ontario and private landowners. The ponds were hand-dug during the Great Depression for the tree nursery and the Midhurst CPR station, performed by hundreds of local families and lead by practical men like Meth Adamson and Cyril Jackson. At its peak, 10 million trees per year were shipped from Midhurst. Drury and Zavitz put into place the systems where two billion trees were planted in Ontario.

Sanctuary for all creatures: The definition of a sanctuary is a sacred space, a refuge, some place that is safe from harm: an asylum. The Vespra Boys cenotaph stands as silent testimony to the human need for peace, reflection and rejuvenation. The horrors of the Great War found a place for the families of those that fought and died within a living 477 acre Eden. Almost immediately, unwanted animals were kept at Springwater, starting with pheasants, deer, raptors and even generations of wolves because those God-created creatures needed to be taken care of because of a faith heritage that has only recently diminished.

Challenge: The tree nursery closed in 1993, the CPR station is also gone. It seems all we know how to do is build homes without any jobs to go along with it but that’s not community-building: that’s another version of a clear-cutting mentality. Does the story of Springwater Park have to end or is there enough wisdom locally to re-kindle the idea that man as an obligation to care for the weakest in their society? And in that effort, have a chance to find their own redemption?

Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition SPCC: The purpose of the Springwater Park Citizens’ Coalition is to support the sustainable operation of Springwater Park . We will provide a supporting role to the professional management of the park, water and forest and will assist where and when appropriate.

In co-operation with the Ministry of Natural Resources, municipal governments, public and private landowners, the Nottawasaga Conservation Authority, water experts, First Nations, CFB Borden, veterans’ groups, and the faith, business and development communities, we hope to help:

  • develop a multi-year strategic business plan,
  • document the story of the park, tree nursery and CPR station (Midhurst Plains),
  • encourage public participation through relationship building with existing community groups (service, faith, environmental, other),
  • retain, restore and renew the animal sanctuary and Vespra Boys cenotaph,
  • help promote the parklands and programs that may be developed,
  • establish a L’Arch community for Simcoe County,
  • promote the park as a version of Simcoe County’s “High Park”, and
  • establish a Springwater Park Auxiliary.

The SPCC looks forward to joining with our neighbours in the future realization of E.C. Drury’s faith-based dream of reconciliation and atonement; in this world and the next.


The ‘Vespra 149’, Royal Canadian Legion, 1929 – 1974

November 1, 2012

Over 100 members strong at one time between the two world wars.


The Vespra 149 club room still exists on Nursery Road at the Ministry of Natural Resources.

Excerpt:

The Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 149

The Royal Canadian Legion, British Empire Service League, was formed in the Minesing Orange Hall in May, 1929, by veterans of the Great War, from Minesing, Midhurst and other parts of Vespra. It was called ‘Vespra 149’, and was unique as it was the only rural branch in Canada.

A Charter was applied for in Minesing, but at that time, the Midhurst Forest Station had started, and the superintendent, C.R. Lane, who was interested in the branch, invited them to make their headquarters at the Reforestation Blacksmith Shop.

A lunchroom was added and the branch made their clubroom. The Hon. Wm. Finlayson had this room turned over to Vespra 149 for their meetings. The branch organized social groups. They had a good quartet and a baseball team. World War II veterans joined and boosted the group membership to over 100. A special day was held annually at the reforestation grounds, with sports, races and entertainment for both sexes. Ball teams from Midland, Orillia and Barrie took part in the event. Remembrance Day services and parades were held there.

Mr. Meth Adamson, Superintendent, was instrumental in having a cenotaph built of stones from the area. Harvey Spence and Robert Mills, both of Midhurst, built it. It has a water fountain and two Lee Enfield Mark III rifles purchased from the Department of Defence. A special stone in the cenotaph has the following inscription: ‘Lest We Forget 1914-1918, In Memory of the Vespra Boys who died in the Great War, Dulce et Decorum Est pro patria Mori.

As the veterans passed on and people moved away, the branch membership fell below the 12 people required to hold a charter, and so, in 1974, Vespra 149 was disbanded.

Midhurst Historical Society

The History of Vespra Township, Vespra Township Council, August 1987, p. 142.

The fireplace inside the at-one-time Vespra 149 club room. Note the similar construction to the Vespra Boys cenotaph.


The people who propose this must worship at the altar of ugliness!

October 24, 2012

Thoughtful, intelligent and caring communities build on the past. Don’t they?

Are we so short-sighted and lacking in confidence? Have we forgotten that today, we stand on our ancestors’ shoulders and hold the future in trust for our children?

In The Midhurst Secondary Plan: Let’s think again!Word pdf Bill Nieuwland is able to compress and express forty years of beauty and folly in a wonderfully elegant manner:

When I moved to Vespra Township more than forty years ago, it was an area of beautiful natural and agricultural landscape. Midhurst was a small village of mostly modest homes scattered along a few quiet streets. For the most part, residents wisely relied on the wooded terrain to enhance the settings of their homes. Subsequent small developments took their cue from the examples set before them. Thanks to the foresight of those who have come before, this village is a jewel of Simcoe County. Word of this bucolic hamlet soon spread. New arrivals were drawn to it because of the opportunities for a wholesome and healthy family and community life. However, it seems that some powers decided that all this was more than its residents deserved. And so, they imposed on it a planning regime that would overwhelm the community.

On the Midhurst Secondary Plan:

Now Midhurst is to be drawn and quartered. The streets that were laid in the heart of the village more than a hundred years ago are to become busy thoroughfares with tens of thousands of vehicles per day. There will be very few local employment opportunities for the thousands of new residents. The mass of commuters will need to go as far afield as Toronto. They will leave bleary eyed in the early morning and return exhausted in the evening. Commuting by public transit or bicycle will be all but impossible. Old Midhurst will become a pedestrian and cycling nightmare.

Bill’s writing reminds me of stories I’ve been told of people I’ve heard of and known, like Meth Adamson, Ike Merritt, Charles Bowdery, George Monteith, Rid Groves, Harvey Spence, Les Willis, Charlie Day, Dick Pierce, and Dick Brown.

If you want to see what Midhurst’s spirit can build, look to Springwater Park.

Springwater Park was planned and crafted out of a desert of sand when everyone thought it was of no value. So was the Midhurst Tree Nursery.

They  used to call it the Commons. It wasn’t worth anything. Alan Johnston

Every pond was man-made working in concert with the gift of abundant water.

Bill Nieuwland expresses an elegant alternate view to the present slash and burn mentality.

Originally published on iLoveMidhurst.ca on March 2, 2012.


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