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Writing About History

I have always been fascinated by history. Not the “Army A fought Army B in year xxxx and Army B won” type of history. What interests me is how it affected the lives of ordinary people, and how they in turn shaped it. I have always tried to find out as much as I can about any place I have lived (or visited).

A few years ago I had a sales route that took me through the Grey-Bruce district, over to Lake Huron and around parts of Georgian Bay. That part of the Niagara escarpment is beautiful country with few large towns, a lot of farmland, and many rivers and lakes. The scenery is pastoral in some spots and dramatic in others, making a great setting for a novel.

Europeans haven’t been here long

It’s hard to believe that less than two hundred years ago all this farmland was forest, almost impenetrable in places. Those who chose to settle it faced hardships we can barely imagine, and made possible the comparatively easy lives we live now.

Along that route I saw the house that inspired the novel I am currently editing, The Stone House. As soon as I saw it, I wished I could paint it, and the main thread of the novel was born.

I would pass signposts that beckoned me with intriguing names, and though I didn’t have time to explore while I was outward bound, I would choose roundabout routes to get home so I could check some of them out.

Rivers and waterfalls

Waterfalls have always fascinated me, and there are a lot of them in that area. I picked up a brochure telling me where to find some of them and made a point of finding and photographing them. Some of them are, or were, the sites of mills in pioneer days, and settlements grew up around them, even if only temporarily. Some of those mills still exist, though most have disappeared and the rivers powering them have diminished. Mills were critical in the early days of settlement.

Visiting those sites fed my imagination and the second thread of my novel fell into place. The setting, a village named Eden Valley, is imaginary, as are the characters and specific events, but grounded in the history of similar places in Ontario.

These are some of the photos I took. They are all the same waterfall. You can walk across the top, although there are signs warning you not to, as water may be released from the dam upstream without warning. It’s hard to get an idea of the height of the waterfall from these pictures, but it is quite high.

view from the top of a waterfall
inspiration for the waterfall in Stone House novel
View fro the top of a waterfall, rocky terrain
View from the top of a waterfall
Another view from the top of a waterfall

You can take a virtual tour of more waterfalls here.

Grey-Bruce, Ontario history, Ontario mills, waterfalls

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