Rural Roots

F.E. Hendershot’s remarkable business credo

The Mount Forest hardware store owner advertised cheap goods and value for money. But he didn’t set out to please all his customers – only the deserving ones


In 1993, Ron Linseman of Arthur Township, Wellington County, brought me a little catalogue which was published in 1915 by the Hendershot Hardware store of Mount Forest.

Every one of the 500 items listed in Hendershot’s catalogue has one thing in common besides carrying a cheap price. They were all “Armstrong” models – human-powered. Not a single one of the 500 items has an electric cord or a rechargeable battery pack. Not the drills, not the vacuum cleaners nor the stoves, the grinders nor even the wringer washers.

When Sunday service was for the birds

On Flower and Bird Sunday, at the Mount Forest church, the birds would be chirping all through the service, their cages surrounded by peonies


There was a time in a lot of churches in Ontario when one Sunday in June was set aside for the birds.

Everyone would bring their favourite cage full of songsters and they would be carefully arranged at the front of the sanctuary.

The minister would often tie his sermon into the hymn, “God Sees the Little Sparrow Fall,” and as often as not the congregation would sing the popular song.

God sees the little sparrow fall,
It meets His tender view;
If God so loves the little birds,
I know He loves me, too…

The Museum-Maker of Huron County

Herbie Neill’s collection of artifacts, accumulated on his travels across Canada, form the core of the Huron County Museum in Goderich, which today attracts 23,000 visitors a year


Herbert Neill travelled across Canada in the 1930s and 1940s collecting artifacts. His great passion was to make sure that folks never forget the story of the early settlement of Ontario and particularly of Huron County.

Known to his friends simply as Herbie, the man who is remembered as the Museum-Maker of Huron County did his collecting trips on a shoestring. He customized his 1926 Essex automobile with a bed, camping equipment and a tent attached to the side.

The hot-rodder who became a one-room school teacher

Bob McLuhan took over the Proton Township school just three months after he had graduated from Grade 12. There was no contract to be signed, just a handshake and a promise to do his best


Bob McLuhan was one of the last of the one-room school teachers. He made it to the front of SS#3, Proton Township, Grey County, in September of 1956. He had just graduated from Grade 13 the previous June.

Two years earlier, at age 16, he had been spending a lot of his spare time doing endless loops of Mount Forest’s Main Street in his 1929 Model A Ford. The car had cost him $20. It was usually packed with a mix of boys and girls picked up along the way.

Ray Wightman – Howick Township’s telephone pioneer

He spent 40 years bringing telephone service to rural customers Bell had no interest in. And, as recognition for his service, he wound up in the Agricultural Hall of Fame


In 1947, Ray Wightman was an 18-year-old kid going to high school. That year, his father, Benjamin, died unexpectedly and Ray wound up leaving school to help his widowed mother run the family telephone business. Little did he know then that he was destined to become a member of Ontario’s Agricultural Hall of Fame.

A facelift for the Bethel Cemetery

It had served the community since the mid-1860s, when the first settlers came over from Islay, but it had become unkempt and neglected. So Wilbert McLellan decided something had to be done


In 2005, I went for a ride with Wilbert McLellan in his big blue Cadillac Fleetwood. Wilbert was a big man, a strong man, who farmed all his life. He wanted to take me out to see a very important place, the 11th Concession of Arthur Township, Wellington County.

Wilbert grew up there, went to school there and attended church there. In 1946, he bought a farm nearby and stayed there until a few years before we spoke, when he retired to town.