2017 – Challenge & Change

By: Larissa, Deanna, and Micayla


In the years since Confederation, Canadians have encountered many trials and tribulations, which have shaped the nation’s identity and culture into what it is today. Through the rough patches, Canada has remained strong, and become a place of hope and opportunity for many Canadians; new or old.


The First World War set in motion the concept of nationalism and a period of increased migration and settlement to Canada. Throughout the 1900s, Canada became less reliant on Great Britain, increasingly independent, and began to evolve into a nation in its own right.

Here are our stories of artifacts that represent moments of challenge and change throughout 20th Century Canadian history:

To view our interactive map, click here

A99-246  Jewelry Box, Ethel Sabina Paton, Adjala Township, ca. 1914

In May of 1914, Ethel Sabina (Grundy) Paton was travelling on the Empress of Ireland (also referred to as the ‘Canadian Titanic’) when it collided with the SS Storstad, which was a large cargo boat built to withstand ice, the Empress of Ireland started to sink. Ethel managed to survive the incident along with her jewelry box.

Source: National Post, http://news.nationalpost.com/news/canada/canadas-titanic-the-sinking-of-the-empress-of-ireland

Ethel Sabina Paton emigrated to Canada in the year 1892, shortly after her father, Frank Grundy, was promoted to Vice President of a railroad company in Quebec. She married William Edward Paton after emigrating. He lived in Sherbrooke, Quebec and worked for the Paton family’s manufacturing company. As the daughter of a prosperous businessman, Ethel travelled between Canada and Europe on multiple occasions.


1901 Census, Sherbrooke, Quebec, Canada.

It seems as though these and other tragedies were foreshadowing or were a precursor to the First World war because of the death and destruction. During the war, the amount of immigrants that were coming over were had a significant decline, because the ships were used to send troops over. The travel of people to Europe escalated as people were shipped off for war.

One of the main challenges Ethel faced was emigrating to Canada, as she was living in a new country, and the only possessions she had were the items she brought with her to Canada. The jewelry box was most likely one of her most prized possessions from home which might explain why she refused to leave the Empress of Ireland without it.

Her jewelry box later ended up at Dufferin County Museum and Archives through the extended family of Ethel, who came to live in Dufferin County much later. Then choose to donated the family to this museum, along with a picture of Ethel herself, and some of her clothing items.

A214-160  Hat Ribbon, R.M.S. Carpathia, Auric Irving Aiken, Orangeville, 1918

This ribbon, or as it is more commonly referred to as a naval cap tally, is traditionally worn by crew members while on board a ship. This naval cap tally is specific to the R.M.S. Carpathia where Private Auric Aiken was aboard for his journey overseas.

The cap tally is 44 and a half inches long and 1 inch wide. Like most cap tallies, the ship’s name is embroidered in a gold-like thread. The use of naval cap tallies have changed over the years. By the Second World War the navy would only be allowed to inscribe the class of ship whether it be R.M.S. (Royal Mail Ship), H.M.S. (His/Her Majesty’s Ship), or something of that  nature. This is different from the First World War when both the ship’s class and the name of the ship were embroidered on the cap tally.

Private Auric Irving “Wee Wee” Aiken was born on June 11th, 1897 to John Aiken and Emily MacAdam in Orangeville Ontario.

Aiken enlisted in Orangeville with the 164th Battalion based out of Halton and Dufferin Counties. Thus began his military career. Pte Aiken boarded the R.M.S. Carpathia in Nova Scotia and departed for Liverpool, England.  He was transferred to the 2nd reserve battalion, followed by the YMMG (Yukon Motor Machine Gun Battery) and seemingly everywhere in between. In 1918, Pte Aiken obtained a slight shrapnel wound to his abdomen, yet continued to fight once he was released from hospital 8 days later.

The Town of Orangeville hounored Auric Aiken in 2009 by dedicating a street in his name, Aiken Crescent. Aiken’s final resting place is in Forest Lawn Cemetery, Orangeville Ontario. Photos by Deanna.

When the R.M.S. Titanic sunk in 1912, the R.M.S. Carpathia was the first ship to respond to the Titanic’s distress call. The entire crew received recognition for their valiant efforts. Later, the Carpathia was converted for service during the First World War. The Carpathia transported Pte. Auric Aiken, many other soldiers, and supplies from North America to England.

After many voyages, the R.M.S. Carpathia was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-boat on July 17th, 1918, around 200 kilometers west of Fastnet, Southern Ireland. Like the tragic stories of many Canadian troops the Carpathia carried to war, she met a bitter end in service to the Commonwealth.


A215-298 A-B  Dutch Clogs, Harm and Ann Dekems, Orangeville, 1951

Clogs are traditional Dutch shoes, known as “Klompen” in Holland. This specific pair was brought to East Garafraxa Township by Dutch immigrants – Harm and Ann Dekems.

They got their start in an area of East Garafraxa Township that is now part of Orangeville and were the neighbours of Steven J Brown. The Dekems gave him the clogs as a gift. The Dekems were supported by the Brown family and lived on one of the Brown farms when they came to Canada on March 27th, 1951. These clogs are souvenirs, but were most likely worn at some point, since they have signs of daily use on the inside. The clogs themselves were manufactured prior  to 1951 in the Netherlands.

The first known pair of clogs date back 850 years, but Historians dispute the age and origin.  This is because when clogs got worn out, the Dutch used the shoes to fuel fires and ovens. Clogs were originally used as protective wear because of their strength and durability.  They were even certified by the European Union as safety shoes because of their ability to withstand objects that are not only heavy, but sharp as well. Furthermore, the traditional Dutch shoes can also withstand concentrated acids.

After WWII Dutch immigration to Canada spiked. The Dekems family was possibly sponsored by the Brown family to come to Canada through either the Netherlands Farm-Families Movement or the Netherlands-Canada Settlement Scheme, but were definitely aided by the Brown family upon their arrival. These government led programs helped encourage Dutch immigration after WWII. However, this was not the only reason Dutch immigration to Dufferin County peaked after the Second World War.  Many war brides ended up in Orangeville with their husbands and new children upon the wars end.

Similar to the case of the Dekems and the Browns, many Canadians went through the process of sponsoring and supporting Dutch immigrants. Canada became a place for people to make a new life for themselves away from the desolate, poverty stricken country. Ultimately, this led to a Canada that was filled with tolerance, understanding, and diversity.

See clogs being made with traditional tools – click here and cue to 00:58.

See clogs being made with modern tools – click here


Challenge and change over time have helped shape Canadian culture and identity. Canadians have proven that it’s possible to overcome challenges, and that change has led us to where we are today.



Jewellery Box, Empress of Ireland

Tally Ribbon, RMS Carpathia

Dutch Clogs