Dr. Donald Smith
They are the names from history that
anyone, who lives in Grey and Bruce counties of Ontario, instantly
recognizes and that historian, Dr. Don Smith, brings to life.
Elgin, Keppel, Bruce, McNabb, Oliphant, Albermerle ... these are only a
few of the names, of another century, that are still evident today
throughout the counties and Smith's passion for their roles in history
was evident in his lecture at the Grey Roots Museum in Owen Sound on
Tuesday, February 17th.
Smith, the world's acknowledged expert on Grey Owl, and who acted as
consultant on the movie about the historical character, starring Pierce
Brosnan, said that he has a special affection for local Canadian
"It's amazing and ... serendipitous, how events in history come
together," he said.
Smith's Grey Roots lecture concentrated primarily on the life of William
Cootes, Lord Bury the 7th Earl of Albermerle, and, in doing so, wove
together many locally recognized names into the life of Lord Bury.
"This area (Grey Bruce) is rich in the history of United Kingdom
aristocracy and intelligencia," said Smith. "Bury, for instance, was a
member of the British elite. He traveled throughout, what we know as the
Middle East, and on to India where he served as 'aide de camp' to the
British Commander. Then, at the early age of 22, he ended up in the
Commonwealth country of Canada.
As would be expected of a man of his age, Bury was adventurous and
travelled to the lakehead (Superior). He was also however, a renaissance
man. Well educated in the finer aspects, such as Greek, Latin, the arts
and languages such as French, Bury (Cootes) also was a humanitarian who
appreciated and tried to understand the aboriginal peoples."
19/02/2009 02:00 PM
Grey Roots Museum
In 1855, Bury was named
Superintendent of Indian Affairs and, working with the First Nations
people, he altered the boundary between their lands and that of the
settlers. "The only reference to Lord Bury I've found anywhere, except
on land deeds," says Smith, "is in Allenford on Highway 21, where there
is an historical plaque where he is mentioned."
In his passion for his subject, Smith brings out not only the historical
side of his subjects, but also their personal lives. "As you can
imagine, Lord Bury was a dashing young man and, when he met Sophia
McNabb, daughter of Allan McNabb of Hamilton and owner of Dundurn
Castle, sparks flew. They eventually married with her father sparing no
expense on the wedding at the Castle."
Smith also has the ability to draw his audience into the past by linking
it with the present.
"The Prince of Wales in 1860 paid a visit to the Commonwealth frontier,
Canada," explains Smith. "He visited the country and stayed at Dundurn
Castle. Today, Charles, the Prince of Wales, finally married Camellia.
Well, it so happens that Camellia is the great great granddaughter of
Lord Bury and the great, great, great grandaughter of Allan McNabb. The
third daughter of Lord Bury and wife, Sophia, was the Lady Keppel,
mistress of King Edward VII."
For those who live in Bruce and Grey Counties, all these names are
familiar ... Keppel of Keppel Croft Gardens in Wiarton, Bury of Bury
Road, McNabb of McNabb Street in Southampton, Elgin of Port Elgin,
Oliphant of the village of Oliphant and Bruce of the Bruce Peninsula.
The list goes on.
Everywhere you travel throughout the counties in southwestern Ontario,
the names are a testimony to the settlers who travelled to the 'new
world'. Historian, professor and author, Dr. Donald Smith, is ensuring
that their stories aren't lost in the annals of time as he documents
them in his many writings, including Sacred Feathers, Lost in
Shadows-Grey Owl and Honore Jackson-Prairie Visionary, as well as his
"Museums are so precious," says Smith. "They save the material that is
history and we (historians) can't tell the stories without that