2016 Writing Competition – 1st place (adult)

Back to the Future

by Janice Hindley

At first glance, my story is a simple one of modern times. Both my career and a marriage brought me to live in Wellington County. Good stories may be simple but never straightforward, and what I discovered about my own Wellington County roots seemed to give credence to that mythical “hand of fate” intervening in our lives, adding complexity to simple tales.

I was born in Toronto, grew up in St. Thomas, and attended the University of Western Ontario in London. I had never heard of Wellington County. My first professional job was with the Town of Orangeville. I moved for my job. While living and working in Orangeville, I married into an old Eramosa family --the Hindley family-- that had been living in Wellington County since the 1830s. Ten years later, I started a new job with the County of Wellington that began a wonderful career that continues today. So, I left Orangeville and moved to Wellington County. Little did I know that coming to Wellington County set the stage for me to discover that I was not the first person in my family to live here.

I have always been the family genealogist, enjoying stories and photographs with my maternal grandparents with whom I shared a very close relationship well into my thirties. My mother’s people were from Kingston and Eastern Ontario. Their history had been relatively easy to document. My father’s side was difficult to trace. He grew up in Port Credit, Ontario. Stories were painful to remember. I had no relationship with my paternal grandparents and family members were estranged from each other. I promised myself that I would find out more about that side of my family one day.

Fate seemed to have brought me to live in Wellington County for that “one day.” I discovered that my father’s roots were here in spades. I was absolutely shocked by what I found.

Now, every time I attend County Council meetings, the “Wall of Wardens” takes on new meaning. There, watching over me, hangs a photograph of Josiah Hampton from Mount Forest. He was my great- great uncle. His sister, Eliza, married John Fleming, a prominent merchant in Mount Forest. They were my great-great grandparents. And yes, my John Fleming was from the pioneer Fleming family that settled Puslinch Township. I couldn’t believe that I had roots in two County municipalities! There was more. In the Wellington County Archives, I could touch an original wedding invitation to the 1899 marriage of my great -grandparents, Frank Turner and Gertrude Fleming, in Mount Forest.

I discovered that Mount Forest and Puslinch were rich with family histories from my father’s maternal side. What were the chances that his paternal ancestors had lived in Wellington County, too? As it turned out, remarkably good. In the little village of Macton, in Mapleton Township, I found Mary Lenehan, my great grandmother, and her family that had settled there after emigrating from Ireland. She had married Philip Lace who, you guessed it, was also from Wellington County. His father, Alfred Lace, had emigrated with his young family from England. They had lived in Guelph Township and, at one time, in the old farmhouse located at present day Riverside Park in Guelph. Long before I came to live in Wellington County, my father’s people had lived here in four different municipalities.

Does fate play a stronger hand than we realize in determining where we live or is it just a “numbers game” -- eventually, you’ll find a connection with one of your ancestors somewhere you have lived or worked. I’m not sure. Some people feel an unexplained connection to a place they have never lived or visited before. They feel “at home”, that they’ve “come home” or that surroundings seem somehow familiar.

“How I Came to Live in Wellington County” or how we come to live anywhere in this world is often not as straightforward as it seems. Going back in time brought me to the present and future in Wellington County. By no design of my own, my children are growing up in a place that is rich not only with their father’s ancestors but also with mine –living here in Wellington County.