Last week’s article about the pending closure of the Bank of Montreal branch in Iroquois prompted much debate in the newsroom. The debate was not over the branch closure itself, but over the year the branch first opened. This led to checking out as many sources as possible to try to verify the opening date. Some references said 1905, while others said 1904, 1902, 1899 and 1898. Using two different independent sources, The Leader finally settled on 1898 as the date the branch opened. However this debate led to a larger issue. Who is responsible for keeping our historical records?
Every town in the old days had a newspaper: many were blessed with two or more. Those newspapers had specific coverage areas and/or perspectives. Many overtly catered to one side of the political spectrum, or the other. They also provided a historical record. The archives right here at The Leader are valuable as a research tool for reporters.
However, not everyone has access to a newspaper archive when he wants to know a date, or some fact. The internet is fine for broader perspective history, or cat videos. However, if you want to know when the first bank branch was opened in Iroquois, or the reason why Stampville was named Stampville, it’s to the archives you must go.
Except you can’t.
Our local archives are mostly unavailable, stored in a building in Brinston. The Morrisburg branch of the SDG Library does have the Dundas County land registry papers, only a good start.
South Dundas and North Dundas have been working on a joint archive project, but details on that project are few and a long time coming.
South Dundas does have a historical society, but it is largely inactive right now due to a lack of volunteers.
We know from recent events that there is a real interest in our history. The community’s support to save Forward House from demolition, and the input from both waterfront groups to incorporate our history into what those groups do are two examples. High turn outs to talks from local historians like John Carruthers is another. A reprint was ordered for Jim Jordan’s book on Morrisburg history, a book only published in March.
The longer we wait to preserve our historical records, the fewer of them will remain. We need to take action now.