Cook historical collection is staying safe in Dundas

South Dundas is steeped in history, but do its citizens know where to look to find it?
One Morrisburg woman made it her mission in life to document and protect the stories of her neighbours’ families, local churches, schools, newspapers, and more. Her dedication to preserving local history was so strong she offered up her home to the mounds of paperwork, books, official documents, and artifacts that came her way. Her home became the Loyalist Resource Centre, opened five days a week for the benefit of anyone, near or far, interested in learning more about the people who have lived in South Dundas and its neighbouring communities.
Lynne Cook had a clear passion for history, devoting her life to finding and capturing it on paper. She died March 16, 2016.
Now, the question for many is what happens to the rooms jammed floor to ceiling with local history?
The Leader recently visited the Augusta Street home, where Larry Empey and Lorraine Reoch, president of the local branch of the United Empire Loyalists, were hard at work sorting and cataloguing the years of accumulated records, deciding what belongs where.
Empey was recently named one of South Dundas’ two representatives to the Dundas County Archive Committee. He and Gerald Thompson have joined North Dundas residents Darlene Fawcett and Brianne Scott, along with Reoch and the mayors of North and South Dundas.
During the Wed., Aug. 31 interview, Empey said the committee hasn’t met and a meeting has yet to be scheduled.
The question of whether Cook’s collection will be added to the Dundas County Archives has not yet been settled either, he said. The answer depends on many factors, but he was adamant the items would remain in their current location at 3 Augusta Street in Morrisburg until he is satisfied with the long-term arrangements. Empey and Reoch said the collection will not be divided and sent to separate locations and it will  not leave Dundas County, as per Cook’s wishes.
Part of Cook’s collection includes the genealogies of many of the county’s oldest families, from Berger and Brown to Shell and Seymour. In fact, there is one entire room devoted to the Casselman family history, officially named The Casselman Ancestral Society. Cook has an assortment of items from the last Casselman reunion held in Morrisburg in 1984, where Casselmans from all around the world came together.
Painstakingly gathered since roughly 1977, there are shelves of census information, data about all cemeteries in the surrounding area, decades of newspaper clippings and photographs, books, Bibles, memorabilia, and more, not to mention the loads of data stored digitally on the centre’s computers. In addition to gathering the information herself, much of it was donated. Families donated copies of their genealogies and, if a fellow historian passed leaving behind a store of data no one was willing to claim or protect, Cook was there to accept custody of it.
The process of sifting through Cook’s collection is slow-going for many reasons. It was hard to know where to start, as the house is overflowing with documents of all kinds, Reoch said. In addition, the dedicated duo are often interrupted by visitors looking for information. This, however, is not seen as an inconvenience, as Reoch and Empey explained it is the reason the centre was opened in the first place – to ensure everyone has access to the history of the area. People come from across Ontario and from the United States, she said, some from as far as Colorado, for instance, and many return for subsequent visits.
While the future home of Cook’s collection remains unknown, Empey was emphatically clear it will remain intact and in Dundas County.

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