2017 -Sports & Recreation

By: Kevin, Kimberly, and Taylor


People have always appreciated a little “down-time”, but our leisure time has certainly increased from previous generations. The five day work week was introduced in the 1920s by Henry Ford in the United States of America. The concept spread North to Canada very quickly. However, Canadians did not just sit back and relax during the increasing periods of leisure time. Instead, they turned to sports and recreational activities to fill their time.

Canadians turned to sports such as lacrosse, curling and skating for fun, fitness and friendly competition. Each sport discussed here has become an important part of Canadian culture and identity.


A95-413-1-1  Curling Stone, G.R. McWhirter, Keldon, ca. 1920

The stone is made of hard maple covered in cement 12” x 5 1/2”, with a  black, round, iron handle.

Curling came to Canada in the 1800’s with Scottish immigrants, who played the game on natural ice for pleasure amid the long cold Scottish winters. Curling developed its roots in Quebec with the first club being formed in 1807; however, by 1830 there were more Scottish settlements in southern Ontario, and southern Ontario quickly became the center of curling in Canada. Curling continued to spread, rapidly moving west with the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway and movement of the Scottish people who rode the rails. Curling became an essential element of grassroots Canada.

Despite the predominate Scottish influence on the sport, curling started to be thought of as a Canadian sport with one Toronto newspaper claiming “curling may now be considered in this Province a Canadian rather than Scottish game”.

Through its long history, the sport became attractive to all levels of society, all ages of participants – a lifetime persuasion. As curling spread throughout Canada, more clubs were formed with people filling their spare time.


Iron curling “stones,” shaped like tea kettles and weighing about 60 to 80 pounds [27 to 36 kg] each, for men, 40 to 48 pounds [18 to 21 kg] each, for women, were the first stones to be used in Canada during the early 1800’s. However, these iron “stones”, and fieldstones (curling stones made out of wood) began to be replaced with granite stones. Additionally, the use of indoor rinks in climate controlled environments, started to grow in larger communities.


To see how curling stones are made, click here

Orangeville Curling Club

Nonetheless, in the 1920’s a local farmer by the name Gilbert R. McWhirter, created this fieldstone. Gilbert R. McWhirter was born in 1864 to Elizabeth Rowan and Andrew McWhirter in Colmonell, Ayrshire, Scotland. G. R. McWhirter immigrated to Wellington County, Ontario, Canada in 1867, where his 7 brothers and sisters were born. At the age of 36 G. R. McWhirter married Jean Hay, and the family was now located in East Luther Township, Dufferin County. For the 1911 census G.R. McWhirter was the enumerator (person who conducted the census) for East Luther.  In the 1920’s G.R. McWhirter manufactured this stone as part of a set of field stones for use on the Grand River in the local Keldon Curling club he was president of.

Keldon, Dufferin County Ontario. This picture shows the Grand River where the Keldon Curling Club played. Picture by Kevin.

G.R. McWhirter died in 1939 and is buried at St. Matthews in Shelburne.

DCMA.EDU-110  Lacrosse Stick, Provenance Unknown, ca. 1910

This lacrosse stick is handmade, likely in the early 1900s. The head and shaft are made from carved wood, and the netting is made from leather and rawhide.

First Nations people invented the sport of lacrosse. The sport served as a means of training men for war and hunting. This stick is similar in style to sticks used by the Iroquoian People.

First Nations people introduced the sport to early European settlers. Between 1800 and the mid-1900’s, lacrosse reached the height of its popularity in Canada. Pioneers of the sport in Dufferin County include Dr. George H. Campbell and W. Kearns of Orangeville. They played lacrosse locally and represented Canada at the 1908 summer Olympics, winning Gold.

Before Hockey was the unofficial official national sport of Canada, there was lacrosse. It was the most popular sport in Canada in the 1800’s to the mid 1900’s, when it started to decline in popularity as baseball arose. This lacrosse stick is an iconic part of Canada’s sports and  recreational heritage as it is a descendant from the very first lacrosse sticks made by the First Nations of North America. When the 5 day work week became available to Canadians in the 1920’s, the amount of leisure time increased and people had more time to play recreational activities, such as lacrosse.

Lacrosse was first invented by the First Nations Peoples of North America. The Ojibwa called the game ‘Baggataway’ whereas the Iroquois called it ‘Guhcheegwuhai.’ When the game was introduced to the early European settlers the French called it ‘La Crosse,’ because it reminded them of a bishop’s crozier or crosse. The Natives often played the game roughly and with little protection. Broken bones and other injuries occurred when the Natives played the traditional way. For young men, lacrosse was serious combat, a way to train and prepare for real wars and hunting practices. Lacrosse was also played during special occasions and sometimes to resolve conflicts. Matches between tribes would often become marathon competitions of lacrosse sometimes lasting for days, team numbers would grow into the hundreds and the goal posts would be set hundreds of metres apart.

Different styles of lacrosse sticks were used by the Natives, this one is more closely related to the sticks used by the Iroquoian People. Other styles can be circular at the netted end, rather than triangular shaped. The rounded style was more used by the Ojibwa Peoples. Another style of stick has a larger net and a shorter shaft, meant to be held with one hand and the other hand would carry a war club. This was good practice when training for war.

Lacrosse sticks for sale in the 1899 Eaton’s catalogue.
Different styles of lacrosse sticks were used by various First Nations groups.

When the European settlers played lacrosse, they turned it into more of recreational activity and less of a serious training method. Leagues and associations were created starting in the late 1800s, and slowly the Natives were excluded from the games. In 1875, the lacrosse stick first made its appearance in Dufferin County. Following this time local tournaments and championships were held, making Dufferin County a regular stop for competing teams elsewhere. In the 1970s, lacrosse was at its height in Orangeville making it well known. The Northmen Lacrosse team of Orangeville has recently celebrated a high achievement of winning the Minto Cup in 2012, and the most valuable player title was given to Dillon Ward. The Minto Cup is awarded annually to the champion junior men’s lacrosse team of Canada, and was donated in 1901 by Governor-General, Lord Minto. The Northmen have also won the cup in 1993, 1995, 1996, 2008 and in 2009.


The Minto Cup

This lacrosse stick is symbolic to Canada since the game was invented here, by the First Nations of North America. Early settlers adapted this sport into how we know it today, as a famous recreational game played for exercise, for a career or for pleasure during spare time.

A208-109-1  Ice Skates, Owned by Frances Pate, Town of Shelburne, 1945

Skating is a  popular sport that many Canadians have enjoyed for many hundreds of years. However, skating originated in Scandinavia during the Middle Ages. The first knowledge of skating in Canada is from Iroquois legends, who tied animal shin bones to their boots with sinew and hide.

The earliest known version of a skate, made from animal shinbone

During the winter, skating was only used as a mode of transportation that made walking on ice easier. As settlers came over from Europe, they brought their own version of skating that had metal tied to their boots.

Skating eventually became a sport in the 1840s by British officers. As recreational sport, skating gained popularity from young girls and ladies as a social pastime. Canada started to lead the rest of the world in regards to this particular winter sport with the introduction of hockey into Canada’s repertoire, with the creation of rules, indoor and commercial rinks, and equipment.

These skates were owned by 10 year old Frances Pate (neé Pitkethly). Frances Pate was a ‘war guest’ from Edinburgh, Scotland.

War guests were children that were sent by either the government or private organization like churches, clubs or companies organized these transportations overseas. The British government believed that the United Kingdom was not safe due to bomb threats from Germany and wanted to get the children out of danger. The government created a program that sent 20,000 children overseas to Canada, New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and the United States.

Scottish and Welsh children, like Frances, made up forty percent of all the children sent away. Frances Pate arrived in Canada at the age of 5 in 1940. She went to live with the Fleming family, Oswald and Ena Fleming and their 4 children. The Flemings` owned the Fleming Hardware store in Shelburne and the children helped look after it as they got older.

When Frances was 24 years old, she married Lorne Pate of Dundalk Township. They lived together in Dundalk until their divorce some years later.

The pair of skates gifted to Frances were made by Bauer Hockey. They are just a regular pair of tube skates that were average for that time. By the looks of the skates, they were not used very much which suggests that these skates were probably used only recreationally. The skates were most likely purchased for roughly $80.43.

To see how ice skates are made, click here

The evolution of ice skates, from the very beginning to now.

Skating has been around for many centuries but continues to be a  social pastime that many Canadians enjoy.




In conclusion, these sports — each with a long history — have carved out an enduring legacy in Canada. All three are still very prominent and popular within Canada. There aren’t many better ways to get a sense of community togetherness and Canadian identity than to visit your local arena, rink or pitch. What could be more Canadian, eh?


Curling Stone

Lacrosse Stick

Ice Skates